Sunday, October 23, 2016

destination home : the promise concert 2016

the irony doesn't escape me.

for the past three years i've had the chance to work on the promise concert -- a fundraiser dedicated to making homecomings possible for vulnerable children in georgia and around the world. promise686 is an organization helping both foster care families and those who choose to adopt.

so, that irony ...
though, typically, a beautiful event raising money, somewhere in the middle of it, i am always struck with how brutal the reality is for so many.

this concert is a group effort taking many volunteers, but over these past few years, i've had the privilege of being the one to fuss over the ambience of the evening. i'm not going to lie, i love that job. i love turning a yard or a century home or (especially) an airplane hangar into something really pretty. i love figuring out how to design tables and colors and centerpieces in a pleasing and picture-perfect way. 

but then, somewhere in the midst of all that pretty-making, i find myself completely overwhelmed with the pain of those children who are living really, really ugly lives. because though i know the importance of the right aesthetic elements, it all starts to feel a bit insignificant when i hear the stories and see the faces and feel the hopelessness of the kids represented in this evening. 

last night, sitting with beautiful friends at beautiful tables on a beautiful georgia night, i listened to cassie's story. a story of sexual abuse and abandonment. a story filled with deep pain and family betrayal. a story, though one of courage and hope now, was once on the path to total destruction. and i am almost embarrassed to be sitting in my new dress and carefully selected shoes in my privileged environment when i cannot even begin to fathom the depth of this young woman's despair -- when i simply cannot comprehend even one hour in her own childhood shoes as a victim of incredible abuse. did i really spend so much time hunting down the right table decor? did i really stress over the font or the fabric or the most frivolous details of this evening when there's a girl with a story like this? and not just one girl. but thousands of girls and boys and children in our state; across our country; all over our world. 

we ordered cool, neutral-colored globes to decorate each table. they went well with the sleek black lanterns and the gray metal across the airplane hangar, but absolutely paled in importance when i think of the children around our real globe -- our world -- the little ones who don't have a safe place to call home.

under the direction of my dear friend and amazing event leader, julie sawyer, my job was also to make sure our guests had a good time and that they were comfortable. i'm serious, after the decor was arranged, that was my evening's assignment -- responsible even for making sure we closed the massive hangar door should the temperatures drop and people begin to get chilly. 

ironic though, because as comfortable as i wanted our guests (and, yes, even myself) to be, listening to the program i began to squirm in my seat. i squirmed to know the hours and energy this event cost when i cannot possibly know the cost of pain in the hidden corners of every direction we turn. every. single. direction. there are over 150 million orphans across our globe. one hundred and fifty million. that means if you grouped them all together in one place they would actually make up the 10th largest nation in our world today. is it possible that the 10th largest nation on our planet could be children without parents? children without a place to call home?

and foster care's statistics aren't any better.  there are over 13,000 children needing foster homes in the state of georgia alone and currently only 3500 homes available to meet this need. those numbers don't work. i don't have to convince you the enormity of this problem. 

i realize there's value in helping throw a great event. i get it. i get that people will write checks and want to return if the party is fun and the air is filled with festivity. and, honestly, i know it's how God has gifted me in helping make this stuff kind of happen. as superficial as that can all sound, i am pleased when God uses my wiring for His glory and purposes. 

but that doesn't mean, i don't get the irony. just because i care if the candle is cream or white or off-white, doesn't mean i don't get the insignificance of that flame when there are so many children being burned up in the fires of real neglect and need.

so there it is. those are the facts. that is my frustration and my embarrassment and my i-don't-even-know-what-to-do-next all rolled up in a few words. that's where i land at the end of each fundraising concert each year. i hear a few compliments and words of praise for how well it went or how good it looked and though i'm, of course, pleased, i'm also completely perplexed at how we can all go on living our comfortable lives when such horror is happening in every corner of our globe. our globe. not the pretty ones on our well-appointed tables, but the one we all call home. i am perplexed and dismayed at my own forgetfulness and apathy in the comforts i can so often take for granted.

so, yes, i'll post pictures of our lovely evening. i know some of you care to see them and i'm happy to share. but, what i'm asking in this blogpost is that even as you are appreciating the pretty pictures,
maybe stop and ask what you might do or give or be. is there a place on this globe -- near or far -- that God is, perhaps, asking you to step into? maybe it's providing the finances or maybe it's providing a family. there are many opportunities to come alongside the fatherless and that's why putting on a great event is important: raising money and raising awareness. maybe even raising the level of uncomfortableness in our own lives.

i know it's what our heavenly Father wants. in fact, promise686 bases it's entire ministry on the very heart of God.  He is "a Father to the fatherless ... God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing."  ~ psalm 68:6

director, andy cook, and his promise686 staff

(don't quote me on this andy cook) but i will probably always say yes to helping at event like this because even though it makes me stare hard into the unseemly places of pain, it also reminds me there are so many doing so much to make a difference. promise686 is an organization faithfully taking one right step after another to do what it is asked. this ministry physically and financially comes alongside families who are fostering and adopting kids. currently, they have raised up and trained over 900 active volunteers specifically serving foster families. in addition, over the past 7 years, they have also raised great amounts of money for families who desire to adopt but cannot afford to do so. amazing stuff, for sure, but trust me, they have even bigger goals. please, take a look at their website and check out what's going on. 

the truth is, maybe we all need to squirm a little in our seats. whether we are caught up in our designing of events or just way too comfortable in our daily lives, maybe we are better for the  opportunities to squirm and feel the pierce of someone else's pain. 

not just to feel uncomfortable, but to be moved to do something. just something. one thing. anything.

                       "i am only one, but still i am one. 
                        i cannot do everything, 
                        but still i can do something;
                        and because i cannot do everything,
                        i will not refuse to do something
                        that i can do."  
                                                   ~ helen keller

the silent auction -- awesome job katie, lori and kim!

music by kurt scobie

so, yes, i was a little obsessed with the airport venue! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the 2016 presidential election: what would Jesus do?

lately, it appears the only thing americans might agree on is the sad realization that no potential savior is running in this obscene race for the presidency. none. no one. nothing. not even close.

there's no man or, for that matter, woman, who is going to save our country.

no way.
no how.
no sirree bob.

with some strange unanimity, we shake our heads knowing the presidential race of 2016 is more in line with all things ridiculous, than with anything close to restorative or redemptive.

regardless of our favorite party or politician, we shuffle around in heavy cloaks of national embarrassment.

and where that seems terribly bleak and beyond worrisome, i'd like to argue that, perhaps, even in this knowledge, it might be possible to find a shred of blessing. because the truth is, our country's hope has never been in a human. our country's salvation has never been in a process, a policy or a program.

not even in our choice of party.

sorry, but no.

it's only in Jesus.

he doesn't push propaganda, but offers peace.
he doesn't promise an economic plan, but assures an eternal one.
he doesn't pander for our votes, but desires our victory.

in the past few weeks i've read one comment after another purporting what Christians should or shouldn't do in this election. mostly, i find myself nauseous when reading the responses: some almost claiming that Jesus, of course, would be in full support of their party and its practices.

i have to tell you, i don't think there's much about any of these parties, at this point, which Jesus would get behind.

but you wanna know what Jesus would do?

it's likely Jesus would invite himself to donald's house for dinner and he would speak words of healing to hillary over a cup of water at the city well ... and he would love them. he'd wash their feet, he'd hold their hands, and he'd even die on a cross for them. yes, even them. because he loves -- not what they've done, not what they do, certainly not what they say they are going to do. but, oh, how he loves them. anyway.

because he loves people. broken people. people like them. people like you. people like me.
all of us who mess up every single stinking day of our lives. he loves us. anyway.

when we aren't sure how to handle ourselves in this time of election, maybe we could think about how Jesus handled Himself when He left the throne room of heaven and exchanged it for the throngs of (us) sinners here on earth.

how did He come?

he came humble. born in a manger and raised by carpenter. Jesus rode in on a donkey (but, please let's not read too much into that donkey thing, okay)? he walked in dusty sandals on dirty streets. he fellowshipped with those on the fringe. he called on criminals, sat with sinners and lunched with the tax collectors. his platform wasn't a popularity contest, but a person committed to people.

he came as human. "who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (philippians 2:6) though Jesus was God's Son, he came born to ordinary-mary and every-day-joseph not to parade as majesty, but to put on the very flesh of common-man himself.

he came for the unhealthy. over and over again we see how Jesus spent His time not with those who had it all together, but with those who were mostly falling apart. he didn't align himself with the pharisees or the sadduccees or with a bunch of garbled policies, but with new mercies. mercy for real, broken, messed up people. i know it is sometimes hard to understand, but Jesus came for the sinner, not for the saint. "Jesus said to them, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." mark 2:17

he came as hope.  and isn't that what we all want? no matter our party or our politics, we all, each one of us, desire hope. in fact, it's why our nation is so unanimously devastated in this election season. clearly, there's no one running who is able to provide a whole lot of hope. but, dear ones, that's when we stop looking to THEM and start believing in HIM. "hope in the Lord! for with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption."  psalm 130:7 i love that word - plentiful - when we're all looking for just a smidge of redemption and hope from this race, Jesus is offering us plenty.

i know november is looming. heck, election day actually falls on my 48th birthday -- talk about depressing! for the past several months i haven't been able to think about my vote without feeling a little sick to my stomach.

and here we are less than a month away.

it sure feels like an all-time low for our country, doesn't it? but maybe there's something good in this new kind of "low." prophetically, isaiah 5 says this about what can happen when we hit rock bottom (and i have to think for our nation, we are pretty darn close to that bottom): "so people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled. but the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts. ... to those who say, "Let God hurry: let him hasten his work so we may see it. the plan of the Holy one of Israel -- let it approach, let it come into view, so we may know it... woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight."  sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?  (go read all of isaiah chapter 5 if you get a chance).

but, wait a minute, jody, at the beginning of this post you tossed out the word "blessing."
where possibly can there be any sort of blessing in this most embarrassing debacle?

so glad you asked.

here's the deal: if this election shows us our need for something more than our country or our campaigns or our cooked-up-versions-of-ourselves can provide --- than yes, that's blessing. that's seeing the problem, the need, the impending disaster of mankind. that's showing us our utter and complete hopelessness.

and that's exactly why Jesus came.

he came to fill that hole in our broken humanity ---

not as a policymaker, but as a peacemaker.
not as one leveraging his position, but as loving his people.
not as a willful charlatan, but as a willing sacrifice.

i know at the end of the day someone will have to show up in the oval office and see to the business of running this country. i am fully aware it's not an issue we can choose to ignore. and, honestly, i don't know what to do about that. but what i do know is that perhaps this very election will be the thing which will make clear to us another issue which we also can't afford to ignore. an issue of even greater importance --- not who is living in the white house, but who is alive in our heart.

just something to think about.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

doing their laundry

i've got a couple of college kids heading home for a long weekend. first time back since they went in august. and you want to know what i'm most excited about? after hugging their necks and hearing every single detail about college life (that they are willing to share) i'm excited to do their laundry.

yes, you read that correctly: i'm eager to serve my kids. 
it doesn't demean me, it doesn't define me, but it delights my soul to take care of them.
i know society sometimes looks at moms who don't have professions outside the home as maybe missing their calling. maybe, to some, it looks like i'm settling for something less or even something a bit lowly. i mean i carried a triple major in college, surely i should be contributing something more in my community.
but i don't think so.

i can't dream of anything i'd rather do more than this. (though i do, on occasion, have the loveliest dreams involving travel journalism).

no, not every day do i feel like clicking my heels over making a chicken casserole or unloading another basket of laundry -- of course not. but as these kids are growing -- and some mostly gone -- i am beginning to realize, even more, what a privilege it is to care for them. they do a lot for themselves -- as they should. that is the goal people. but some of you will agree: as we, stay-at-home or working moms, watch our kids' independence come better in sight, we might better know the gift in just being a mom.

does this make me a super mom? not at all. but as my kids are slow emptying our home, it makes me more than ever want to be a serving mom.

(an important side note to my children: you know better than to abuse the spirit of this post. it's not a license to be lazy, it's simply a little declaration of your mama's love).