Monday, October 19, 2009

something is better than nothing.

Would you believe me if I told you that this photograph was taken in West Palm Beach, Florida... just fifteen minutes from one of the wealthiest and most successful communities in all of South Florida?

I didn't think you would.

You see, the harvest is all around us. The needs in our midst are so great, and I pray that we do not fail to see that while our eyes and our efforts are focused on how the international world is suffering, there are those in our own cities who need us as well.

These are our neighbors, and I dare to say that we have not love if we fail to reach out to them.

Have you ever wanted to make a difference in the lives of others?

I encourage you to look around... find somewhere, like the trailer park where this photograph was taken, and pour out your life in service to them. Find a family who is hungry and bring them food. Find a child who is struggling in school and commit yourself to tutor him. Sacrifice twenty minutes of your day to simply listen to someone in your life who is heartbroken and needs a friend. Offer an art class to people whose talents may be entangled by a web of poverty and despair. Fill in the blank. The world is your oyster.

Do not be discouraged if your efforts are not large, in charge, and being broadcasted all around our media-frenzied world. No one has to see what you do, because you are not serving to be recognized, but instead to touch the lives of others in a real and practical way. Besides, God sees each and every thing that you do and He delights in your commitment, love, humility, and faithfulness -- no matter how "small" you think your acts of service are, and whether or not you ever get a "pat on the back" for what you've done.

So, I challenge you with the following question: What are YOU intentionally doing to serve those in your midst?

If your answer is "nothing," do not feel dismayed! Open your eyes today and look around for a neighbor in need. Get in the car and drive "downtown." Visit an elderly home and play checkers with someone who is all alone. Go for a walk, and ask God to show you how you can serve your neighbors.

You'll be surprised what He shows you, and when you see how big the harvest in your midst truly is, just jump in and do something... for something is better than nothing.

Be blessed as you serve...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

the faces of people I have never met.

I have never dreamed as much as I do now, nor have I ever so consistently woken from my slumber and had such a clear recollection of what had happened the night before while the world was quiet.

No, I have never been much of a dreamer, yet lately, the images I have seen in my sleep have so desperately stirred my heart that they have kept me awake throughout the night. There I remain, tossing and turning, staring at the clock, wondering why I cannot get the faces of people I have never even met out of my heart or my mind.

Some nights, I am confronted with images of brokenness; other nights, situations of desperation and poverty. Some nights, I wake up only to find that I had been holding an orphan in my arms and I loved how warm and comforting it felt. Some nights, I am walking the dirt-ridden streets of a village with nothing but the clothes on my back. There, I am paradoxically fulfilled and filled with joy; I wouldn't have it any other way.

When my alarm sounds at the glorious hour of 6' o-clock, I open my eyes and am overwhelmed with a sense of disappointment that I am comfortable, safe, and filled with hope when so many around the world are not. I get frustrated about the way that I am spending my days, all the while knowing that I am called to more than this. These feelings of frustration and disappointment are soon confronted with a flame of urgency in my heart that screams "What in the world am I doing here?"

I go to church and I hear stories about people all around the world whose lives are being completely transformed by the hope that God offers to all who will step out in faith to receive it. These people are so courageous in their faith. I hear about how God leads them to take the hope that they have received and in turn, offer it to others whose lives are broken. I so want to follow their example. They open their homes to children who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected when they cannot even provide for themselves. They live their lives, one day at a time, not knowing when they will eat or if they will be persecuted for the God they believe in. Most of them are.

I spend countless hours at a near-by trailer park here in West Palm Beach, and I see the impact that the mere concept of HOPE has on the inhabitants of the community. I watch as week after week, children run barefoot down the streets at exactly the hour we are expected to arrive to open the door to the club house. They come running with their arms wide open, because they know that in our midst, they have found a refuge, a safe haven, and most important, love.

My heart screams in urgency... "I want to do this forever."

I want to be there, wherever "there" is. If I told you what has been happening throughout these past few weeks in my heart and in my life, you would never believe me. God is moving, and more than ever in my life, I have no other response but to stand back in humility, awe, reverence, and peace. He knows what He is doing, much better than I. My position is to continue to learn how to live a life that is emptied of myself, yet completely filled with Him.

Until the beauty of His marvelous plan unfolds and leads me to that which is "next," I will continue to toss and turn, patiently awaiting the day when I will finally meet the people whose faces have kept me awake at night. I already love them.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

love... as if I know how

I am dumbfounded at how such a perplexing subject has been so impressed upon my heart tonight, but it just has been. I cannot pretend as if I know the first thing about unfailing love or how to give advice about love. All I know is what I have come to believe. By the grace of God, the lenses of my heart operate not through what I have experienced, but rather through what I have chosen to believe: Love is piercingly deep, and it is unconditional.

I am wrestling with this concept. I truly am, however I know that as long as I wrestle with it, I am wrestling with an inevitable truth that will not change. Love cannot be anything but deep and unconditional; it cannot be selfish, it cannot be rude, and it cannot be based upon how the recipient of our love responds to our actions. It just can't be.

I wish this were easier, and sometimes, I wish that love was what the "world" says it is... passionate, feel good, convenient, lovey-dovey, where everyone is happy and no one ever has to make sacrifices. If it were that way, it would sure hurt a whole lot less, that's for sure.

But love is not this way. It is heart-wrenching and it is so deep. It breaks down barriers and it brings kingdoms to the ground. It always tells the truth, no matter what will come as a result. It is sacrificial. It is unfailing, It is giving.

Love goes past the surface and pierces the soul. Love does not allow rejection, ungratefulness, or disappointment to change what it is. Love is everlasting. Love is revolutionary, and love can melt even the hardest of hearts. I am desperately praying that in my present circumstances, it truly does.

I need love to break down the barriers in so many areas in my life. I just do. I need love to pour out of me and into the hearts and lives of so many people in my life who just need to believe that it exists. So many of us have given up, and even in my present state as my head is pounding full of aching thoughts and questions, I must hold on to the truth that we do not love to receive anything in return. We do not love to make ourselves feel good. We do not pour out our love upon others so that they will esteem us or give us praise. We do not serve to be served, but to give our lives for others. Plain and simple.

We love because God has first loved us. We love because the love we have experienced is the deepest, most sacrificial, and most life-transforming love we have ever known. We love because of who Christ is and how He lived. We love, well... because love is everything.

Knowing genuine, deep, and unconditional love may require that we get involved in the lives of others more, and at times, maybe even get hurt a bit more... but I am confident that it is worth it. I am "preaching" to myself here.

May we serve others with a love that never fails and a heart willing to endure everything for that which we love, and for those whom we love. Though it's not the easiest way, it is most assuredly the most valuable.