Saturday, December 11, 2010

Camels, Raccoons and Shiny Things

Try as I might, I can't sleep. I can tell already that adoption, radical obedience and blogging are not going to be good for my sleep habits. So, I just decided to give in and get up and write.

Enough people have inquisitively asked me, "what is Christmas unshopping?" casually in conversation and so I instead of telling it all over again, I have been referring them to yesterday's post for the shortcut that it is for me. Plus, I may not do the story justice each time I have to tell it, so it really is better for them too. But I wonder, why do I not hear anything back from these people?

Maybe it's because they have busy lives and they haven't had a chance to read. Certainly that's the case in my world often enough. Maybe they wholeheartedly agree and were going to post and shout an "amen!" but their kid fell down the stairs and they had to rush off to the ER. Suddenly posting a comment on someone's blog would be a forgotten thing. But what tumbles over and again in my mind like a load of laundry in the dryer is, "What if it's because they're thinking, 'Wow, better you than me!!'???" What if they are thinking in their minds that what we have done is ludicrous or even sacrilegious or even evil to our children? Taking back their gifts?! Horrible! Why would parents impose their own convictions on their children's childhood like that?! Perhaps they are thinking that our Christmas unshopping is undermining family tradition and robbing our children of precious Christmas memories? Now not a soul has uttered these words to me, but I just wonder.

How married are we as Americans to our holiday traditions? Are we convinced that celebrating the birth of a Savior has to be done in a particular way? Maybe we'd quickly answer, "Oh, it can look very different from family to family." But do we really think that? Isn't it expected as you drive around at night time in December that each house will have lights up? That you can find a pretty tree glowing through a main window in each house? Afterall, this is how we Americans do things! But what in the world does it have to do with a baby born to impoverished teenagers in a stable? And why do we then surround the bottom of that tree with materialistic wealth when our counterparts on the other side of the planet are worn out from crying from hunger? The pain of a parent's heart bleeds as they wonder "will I be able to find a meal for my children today?" Is this the meaning of Christmas? If we had a tool that could look down into the situation of that mother and she could look back at us, what would she think? Would she wish us a Merry Christmas? What would she say when we pass the potatoes and ham around and toss away the leftovers we couldn't bear have one more bite without loosening up our belts a notch? Does this really make us happy? I fear the answer is no.

What do we ask our friends after Christmas has passed? Why we ask them, "How was your Christmas?" We don't mean, did you celebrate the birth of Christ in a meaningful way--did you find deep and abiding joy in your relationship with Him--were you moved to tears by the things that continue to be on that Savior's, we mean, "Did you have a fun day? Did you get to be surrounded by the people you love most? Was everyone healthy? Did you have fun watching your children open the gifts they wanted? Did you dine on rich foods till you nearly burst? Did you get some good relaxing in?" Just exactly what are we doing in America with Christmas???? I'm not really feeling good about it all.

I join my friend and fellow blogger in asking the question, what are we teaching our children when we give them a morning filled with opening material gifts that cater to their dreams and desires? I don't have an answer, but I join in her question. Our parents' generation did not question these things, they just went with tradition. But is it not time we step up and help our children grasp a WHOLE GOSPEL?

Yes, the book The Hole in Our Gospel is really gripping me. He tells what the whole gospel is...the good news of a Savior who has redeemed us for eternity...and it changes our lives HERE. We live DIFFERENTLY THAN THE WORLD because of our inheritance.

The statistics are out and they are very disconcerting to the church: some 80% (some reports are even higher!) of children leave the church never to come back after age 18. Wow. That's terrible. Seriously awful. As a former Christian Education Director I find this news appalling. What in the world is wrong? Youth group skits no longer out-entertain our high tech kids? No, it's much much deeper than that. I think there is a connection here. We are catering a selfish Christianity to these kids and they don't want it.  They want real, and you know, so do I. And I think God does too. A real faith is going to really impact my daily life, and the way Christianity has been lived out here in commonville America, well, it's not real different from the average non-faithing American. My life as a Christian should look totally weird and completely crazy to the watching unbeliever. But often, the only difference is a toned down vocabulary. Yikes.

What if these children were in families who were radically DOING what Jesus said in the Scriptures? Would they walk away from their faith if they spent their childhood living a selfless life, seeing the joy on the faces of people a world away for whom they had sacrificed their own comfort? Would they want to joyfully seek God's direction in their own lives if they experienced that deep abundant joy that Jesus told us He came to give us while they were still small?

Just this morning my girls and I were reading what Jesus said to the man with all the riches. The guy was young and he was interested in following Jesus. He knew there had to be more, but he didn't know what, so he asked Jesus! But as David Platt points out in his book, Radical, Jesus really did a pretty lousy job of getting Himself another follower! No instead of telling him, "Hey man! Great job on keeping all those commands! You're doing super! Keep up the good work!" Jesus tells him to go and sell all his possessions and give to the poor, then to come and follow Him. Now I love that in the in-between it says that "Jesus loved him." You see, Jesus said quite plainly, "I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly!" (John 10:10) It was our Savior's full plan that those who follow Him would give up rights to their life and pursue the Kingdom at their own skin's expense...but He was going to fill them with such joy and richness that they would live ABUNDANTLY in spite of it. That is not logical, it's Kingdom talk. We shouldn't understand that from an earthly perspective, we were never intended to. But this young rich guy stopped early. He wanted to follow Jesus, or at least he thought he did, but then he looked at his stuff and said, "No, it's too good. I can't possibly give it all up and follow him." The Bible even says the man went away sad! He didn't even get to be happy with his stuff! He went away sad! He chose a lose/lose. Heartbreaking for Jesus, I am sure.

Now I couldn't help interjecting a little lesson with my girls about the way to catch a raccoon. Do you know? They love shiny objects. They see something shiny and they want it. The will reach into (said container/trap) and grab that shiny object and be unable to draw their paw back out. The shiny thing is too big to fit with their paw back through the hole. Now if they were to drop the object of their affection, they could go free, but for the life of them, they will not let go. Do you see? Are we in love with our shiny objects? I think JR Tolkien got this concept and wrote about it in his Lord of the Rings trilogy!

Jesus tells his disciples who watch this whole exchange, "I tell you the truth, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven!" Wow. That's really is a great hyperbole, Jesus: a camel through a needle's eye! But it hyperbole? How many Americans are giving away all their stuff and moving into a small rented space among the poor in a below-par school district? How many people do you know are trying to downsize their vehicles and drive something smaller...not just to save on gas or to help keep the earth green? How many people are seeking out the widows and spending time with them? I know I'm not.

That's where the noise comes in. The texts. The news. The television shows. Tunes! Running our busy lives keeps us safely unable to listen to these verses and ponder what they might really mean if we let them just linger and dwell upon our hearts. Who in the world wants to give away their comfort? Well, I for one surely don't! I think each night as I settle into my special family-made down feather pillow, "ohhhh, Lord, I know my comfort isn't your goal, but I sure do love it!" I remember years ago my mother in law telling me, "Amy, God is not concerned about your comfort." I hated hearing that. But she was right. But what if there is more than just my comfort at stake here?

My comprehension of the gospel is that eternity begins now. We are rescued from sin to have eternal life with the God of the Universe. (That's totally incredible. I doubt I will ever get over that.) Eternity begins now and John 17:3 says so, "And this is the real and eternal life: that they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You sent." (emphasis mine) So I can have that thrill and joy now, here in this earthly body, still struggling at present with sin among a fallen world. I am to die to myself (see the tab above about "grain of wheat" where God made this pretty personal for me!) and live to serve others and help them know and obey Jesus too. (Matthew 28:18-20) Then, my reward in heaven is going to far surpass anything this world could ever hold. The most luxurious of lives will look like poverty when we are in heaven! So why not give up my comfort now for the comfort I'm going to get later? We are even commanded to keep our eyes on things above, not on earthly things in Colossians 3! (I can see in my mind the people further down the road than I in this journey, smiling and saying, yes! So easy to say, so hard to do...but so worth it!)

My life is unraveling. I love it. I have no idea where it's taking us, or what lies around the next bend. It's scary and completely invigorating all at the same time. I mentioned to my parents as we discussed our adoption of two orphans from Uganda, "What if they are twins and they have a younger sister?" My dad's response was, "Amy, you're not running an orphanage!" And I smiled, "No, not yet!"

1 comment:

  1. so many GREAT questions, amy! and i need to take time to answer them for myself.....i talk a big talk, but don't come even close to walking the walk...yet! looking forward to the part of this ride that we get to do together! please keep writing (unless you DO start that orphanage and then you really won't have time ;-))


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