Do you think God takes sides? I’ve heard people say about this election that “It’s all part of God’s plan.” I can’t help but wonder if those people would say the same thing if the other side had won, or if the president-elect had been a black man, a Muslim, or a member of the LGBTQ community instead of being a straight rich white guy. Most of us would probably say it wouldn’t be any different and most of us would claim to believe in a God who is Love.
This notion of a God who is exercising a non-discriminating love towards all people should stand as a healthy protection against racists who do not believe God really loves dark-skinned people. It also should stand as a healthy protection against white evangelicals who instinctively feel (even when we deny it) that God is more concerned about us than about the unemployed workers who flock to Mexico City every day. Or at least surely we must be more blessed than them… right?
There is something false and unbiblical about this view of God’s relationship to the world’s peoples when we pit groups against each other and ask whether God is equally the God of the military dictator and those who are murdered by that dictator. Does God have the same disposition toward the victim of a plant closedown in Akron, Ohio as toward the members of the Board of Directors who shut down the plant (with no concern for what would happen to the workers)?
Maybe your God is aloof from such things; any other God would be a God who chooses sides. And surely a god who loves everyone wouldn’t choose sides would he? It might not be so hard for the biblical writers to imagine though. Let’s take a look at Exodus 1:8-14; 2:23-25; 3:7-10.
7 the people of Israel became so numerous that the whole region of Goshen was full of them. 8 Many years later a new king came to power. He did not know what Joseph had done for Egypt, 9 and he told the Egyptians: There are too many of those Israelites in our country, and they are becoming more powerful than we are. 10 If we don’t outsmart them, their families will keep growing larger. And if our country goes to war, they could easily fight on the side of our enemies and escape from Egypt. 11 The Egyptians put slave bosses in charge of the people of Israel and tried to wear them down with hard work. Those bosses forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses,[a] where the king[b] could store his supplies. 12 But even though the Israelites were mistreated, their families grew larger, and they took over more land. Because of this, the Egyptians hated them worse than before 13 and made them work so hard14 that their lives were miserable. The Egyptians were cruel to the people of Israel and forced them to make bricks and to mix mortar and to work in the fields.
23 After the death of the king of Egypt, the Israelites still complained because they were forced to be slaves. They cried out for help, 24 and God heard their loud cries. He did not forget the promise he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 25 and because he knew what was happening to his people, he felt sorry for them.
6 I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face. 7 The Lord said: I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being mistreated. I feel sorry for them, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians. I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 My people have begged for my help, and I have seen how cruel the Egyptians are to them. 10 Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country.
We have a class struggle happening here. Two sides pitted against each other. Can we claim that this is God’s will? That one class would trample on the other classes? One side is forcing the other into slavery, but then God steps onto the scene. He clearly takes the side of the oppressed people. And we see in scripture that he always takes that side.
So is this “all part of God’s plan”? The whole earth is under the dominion of God and this is affirmed by Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper who wrote,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
We have no reason to doubt that God is in control. The real question on my mind is this: “If God is in control, does that mean he approves of everything that happens?”
Part of the life of the Christian is to be in the center of the will of God. So if the answer to the above question is “Yes”, then God has chosen every single national leader, and has appointed them with approval. In this scenario, the military dictator who kills hundreds of thousands is appointed by God. The problem with this answer is that it runs counter to the character of God. It should then be noted that while God’s authority is absolute, his approval is not.
Drew Griffin once wrote “Everything that we do in our lives, every vote that is cast, every leader that ascends, all of it happens under the providence of God. However, God’s sovereignty does not give us license for sinful choices.” We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. We are called to defend the oppressed. We are called to stand up for the voiceless.
So God firmly remains in control amidst the chaos. Are we off the hook because “It’s all part of God’s plan”? Is it enough to rest securely in that control?
I confess that sometimes I feel like I’m still 17 years old.
I’m so klutzy, and never quite know what to say. Things are often difficult for me to understand, and it doesn’t help that I look younger than I am. I forget to ask questions at the right time and then, at a crucial moment, I’m left confused and wishing I’d asked when I had the opportunity. I dwell on past conversations, and whether I unintentionally offended someone. I go over things I maybe wanted to phrase differently, realizing something sounded better in my head than said out loud. I’m pretty hard on myself!
My husband, on the other hand, has always seemed so sure of himself. Even in his teenage years, when everyone else was either embarrassed or cocky, he just knew who he was. Now, he is the picture of humble self-confidence. He always seems to know what to say at the right time, and he is the most patient person I’ve ever known. He loves to research topics of interest to him and excels as a student, a lifelong learner. One of my favorite qualities about him is his ability to take a step back from a frustrating situation, calm down, and respond with grace. I won’t go into detail, but my first inclination is not to respond gracefully! God knew I needed someone like him in my life. It takes a lot of effort for me to hold back a biting retort, hence the reason I don’t always feel like a “grown up”…(whatever that means).
They say people start to become more like their spouse as time goes on. I am SO GRATEFUL to God for blessing me with a spouse like John. He embodies such goodness! Getting to see him be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle are HUGE learning moments for me; he is such a gracious teacher.
Last month we celebrated our 6th anniversary. It feels like we’ve been married forever, in a good way 🙂 But it just keeps getting better. He keeps loving me, even when I fall apart. He keeps leading me, even when I don’t want to follow. He continues to encourage me,
even especially when I’m feeling discouraged. He helps to remind me who I am and whose I am.
I often joke that he’s the better parent, and it’s kind of true. (I know, I know, we both have our strengths and weaknesses…although I feel like my weaknesses outnumber his greatly!) I wouldn’t be nearly as good of a parent if he weren’t by my side. But it’s not just parenting that I enjoy doing alongside him. We have fun even in our seemingly mundane day-to-day activities. But let’s be honest. moving 7 times in 6 years hasn’t provided us with a lot of “mundane” time. We love to cook, hike, travel, and eat interesting foods together. We love discussing books, movies, adventure ideas, and parenting topics. We forgive and forget, we show compassion, we encourage each other to be the best versions of ourselves, we both enjoy coconut milk ice cream, and a good pun. Some days are really really hard because life isn’t all sunshine and roses. Sometimes the sunshine makes you uncomfortably hot and those thorns pierce your hands. But at least we get to journey together, and for that I am grateful.
Here’s to forever.
Happy 6th anniversary, John-boy! I love you so.
I confess that I used to hate Summer. I loved being out of school and frequenting the pool but other than that, I really didn’t like it. Ever since I was young, sunlight was really hard on my eyes. I was that kid with the multi-layer sunglasses walking grumpily alongside my parents in June. During junior high in July I was so fed up with my thighs rubbing together that I just wanted to stay inside. As a teenager in August I would hang out at the pool to pass the time until classes started again. For some reason I was just so sensitive to the summer heat. Maybe I was spoiled with too-cold air conditioning? Maybe I didn’t like to sweat? Something about the sun gave me headaches, made me feel lethargic and I felt bogged down by it.
In my 26 years, I’ve always experienced a hot summer… until last year when we were in Northern Ireland. I prided myself on loving the rainy breezy UK weather where our warmest summer day hit somewhere near 65 degrees Fahrenheit, (but we only had a few of those). Honestly, I was content to wear Fall/Spring clothing year round and it worked out well for me! I didn’t realize until I returned to Kansas City and the weather started to change that I actually missed the sun last year.
I confess that, despite two and a half decades of dreading Summer, it’s my favorite season this year. A lot of it has to do with my little kids who enjoy the pool, park, farmer’s market, spraygrounds, popsicles, the backyard kiddie pool, watermelon, getting messy outside and giggling when I clean them off with the hose. But I think the real reason I love Summer this year is because of all the light. Yes, the sun provides me with much-needed vitamin D but also there’s just a lot of light in my life these days. My 3 year old has turned a corner with his behavior, my 1 year old is communicating better, I love what I do for work and I can see a time in the near future when I’ll be making an income, my husband is so happy leading a church as their pastor (and he’s good at it too!), my perspective and attitude as a mother are shifting, I have some of the best mom-friends in the world, and I have this overwhelming sense of peace and confidence in God’s purpose for my life.
But don’t read this as someone bragging about her life. Because please believe me when i say that I’ve been trapped in the valley, stuck in the darkness, with no light at the end of the tunnel. I still often find myself in those difficult spots where I feel overwhelmed with life, like God can’t hear my cry. I often forget that God has a purpose for me amidst all the frustration that comes with living how I feel like God has called me to live. And honestly, I received a phone call in the middle of this blog taking me right back to those dark places.
But you know what? You can’t rise up until you have SOMETHING TO RISE UP FROM. (And I know not to end a sentence with a preposition, but there it is.)
As a child, I couldn’t enjoy the sun because I had never experienced true absence of it.
All the darkness, the struggles, the grief, the anxiety… all that I have experienced and continue to experience helps me because now I can rise up and enjoy the light.
This summer, I’ve made a commitment to myself not to complain about the heat. Because even though it presses in from all sides, there is light.
I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.
I confess that when I moved back from Haiti four years ago, I didn’t really have the desire to go back ever again.
You may be saying, “What? I thought she loved Haiti!” And I do! But after being there for several months, I had started to focus on the difficult parts of living there. Being perpetually sweaty, covered in dirt, and working hard to communicate started to wear on me. And that’s not even including the little things… cold showers, intermittent electricity, and the same few meals (although delicious) left me begging for variety. It can be difficult to accomplish things in Haiti, and I found myself focusing on the end result of accomplishment rather than the journey of learning to get there. I am American after all! 😉
In January I could not shake this feeling that I should go back to Haiti to visit. When I dug deep, I remembered so many good things about living there! These positive memories had been shoved to the bottom as I let the negative memories of culture stress rise to the top. I so badly wanted to GET OVER culture shock, that I didn’t let myself deal with it properly and just be present on my journey. Turns out, there was a group going to Haiti in May that needed a trip leader. I gladly accepted this offer from Global Orphan Project (goproject.org) and we ended up having a great experience just last week.
I witnessed so much goodness my heart could’ve burst! From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt like I was “home”. I’ve said this before, but the bad part of traveling is that your home is in pieces all over the globe. I hope my team didn’t get tired of me talking about Haiti, I tried to encourage them to create their own perceptions and be present in their own thoughts. But I had forgotten! By speaking out loud I was not only encouraging them to see the goodness, but REMINDING MYSELF of it too.
Whether they’re aware of it or not, the Haitian people I hung out with last week taught me many things. Where we see trash, they see treasure. Where we see brokenness, they see an opportunity for resourcefulness. Where we see a crowded church that “needs more seats”, they see a vibrant congregation ready to worship. Where we see boredom, they see a time for rest. But it’s not just about “them” and “us” is it? Because we’re really not that different. People are people, and we are all on our own unique journeys through life. So let me turn this around on myself. Where I once saw difficulty, I now see opportunity. Where I once saw frustration, I now see there is something for me to learn. Where I once hated the heat, I now can enjoy the times where the air conditioning is in fact working! Where I once saw a sound system that didn’t function properly, I now see the wonder of singing without the burden of equipment. And where I once experienced hopelessness, I now see peace and contentment.
The first thing I wrote in my journal was in kreyol, “anpil change” (so much has changed). I initially meant that a lot of things looked different than they had 4 years ago and was writing about the way dinner was served, the uneven step that got leveled, and the location of the drink fridge. But I think what really changed was me. You see, life keeps on going whether we’re ready or not. And I realized that I could let the frustrations of Haiti become my cry, or the joy of Haiti become my song.
I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.
I confess that I think we have gone too far with technology.
“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world.” This lyric from the 80’s hit “Don’t Stop Believing” stands to speak directly into the culture of today. Winston Churchill once said that we shape our buildings and then they begin to shape us. This is painstakingly obvious in the way we structure our communities. We build huge houses made for one family, and then we attach garages so we never need to go outside. We never have to see our neighbors.
The same is happening with technology. We have shaped our technology so well that we no longer have to sit in the same room as our family in order to have a conversation. Or when we are in the same room, we don’t need to use our voices. We now live in an age where we are “alone together”, which is the title of a book written by Sherry Turkle. She writes,
“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.”
In 2002 Wilco wrote the lyrics, “Our stories fit into phones.” It is scary how true this has become.
So what do we do? Has the landscape of the world become so bleak? What can I do as a father to help my kids grow from children into adults who are not “alone together”? What do you do?
I don’t think that the outcome is necessarily so bleak. I think we can BE the church. A community of people that remembers they are part of the mission of God. As a father I am going to pray that my boys never know a moment in their lives apart from the people of God. I am going to pray that the church is woven into their tapestry of their lives. I’m going to work hard to model the church to my boys. I’m going to place my hope in a saving God, a creating God, a sustaining God.
I’ve made my confession, now go and make yours. And think about who you can reach out to this week (in person).
I confess that I don’t feel like an awesome mother very often. Not for lack of encouragement though; my husband tells me constantly how wonderful he thinks I am. Oh, and my kids are perfect little angels, their sweet behavior reminding me how amazing my mothering skills are. JUST KIDDING. My boys are moody toddlers who scream, cry, hit, bite, and frustrate me a LOT. I try to remind myself every hour of every day that we are all learning how to do this thing called life together, my boys and me. I’m on a parenting journey and once I feel like I’ve made progress and finally learned my lesson, it seems like I take another step backward. Likewise, my boys are learning how to be decent human beings in this world of ours. Teaching and learning lessons (all of us), extending grace, asking for forgiveness, crying, laughing… these are all things that can happen in a day (sometimes an hour).
I confess I went out of town and spent a week away from my boys and I LIKED IT. Yes it was hard and yes I missed them but, because they were in such good hands, I didn’t worry about them. That helped me have an amazing time and I was able to come back feeling refreshed, re-energized, and reminded of all the goodness in my life. I think I’m finally at the point in my parenting where I can take moments to myself and come back a better mom. (Shoutout to my husband who is SUPER-DAD! Two words: “mini quiches”… Okay, more words. I mean seriously, I’m left alone with the kids and I can barely survive. He is left alone with the kids and he makes mini quiches and goes on field trips?! Super-dad.)
I confess that I didn’t get my mom anything for Mother’s Day. Apparently I came back in town feeling refreshed but with my head screwed on crooked. We had a whole meal planned and she even got me a gift (I’m not even her mom!) but I totally failed. I have an amazing mom, too. She birthed me, nurtured me, deals with my idiosyncrasies, has always supported me in everything I do, and even comes to visit me internationally when she can. She is such a wonderful grandma (Yaya) to my boys I sometimes joke that she only had kids so that someday she could have grandkids 🙂 My favorite thing about her is the openness of her home. Growing up, it seemed like we always had someone living with us, usually extended family but also an exchange student and even a pair of refugees finding their way in our country. Coming back to Kansas City from Northern Ireland was made so much easier because she just assumed my family would move in with her, and we did! Family dynamics are far different than they were when I was a teenager living with them. I’m married with a family of my own and she didn’t even bat an eye when opening her door to us. She helps with our boys and keeps her mouth shut when she comes home and the house is a mess. Living with them helps John and I have the ability to pursue our dreams at the same time and it is marvelous. Sure, living with my parents is unconventional but it seems like my husband and I are always a bit unconventional in how we live our life. I’m not worried about it, and neither is my mom. Like I said, she’s the best. I love you mom! Thank you for being YOU, because you are the perfect mom for me <3
I’ve made my confession, now go make yours (not you Mom, you’re off the hook this week)!