Finding God in the Waves: A Book Review

I hated listening to people talk on the radio or recordings for a very long time.
I blame my Mother’s love of listening to talk radio when I was a child.
(Can’t we just listen to music please???)

My husband, Ben, on the other hand, puts on a podcast whenever he’s doing any sort of menial task. Dishes, folding laundry, driving home from work, waiting for the microwave popcorn to pop.

About a year ago he finally convinced me that podcasts were a great way to learn things or be entertained, that they really weren’t all about sports or economics and that I could definitely find some that focused on theology or art or storytelling.

It didn’t take very long before I had a steady rotation of 6-10 podcasts I would listen to each morning while running.

One of the podcasts that quickly made its way into my rotation was The Liturgists. 

I had followed Michael Gungor’s work as a musician for years, but the other co-host – Science Mike – was new to me.

Like Science Mike, I also grew up in the south and the lions share of my church experience had been spent in the Southern Baptist Convention. I too had undergone a sizable shift in my faith in recent years.

Unlike Science Mike I have never considered myself an atheist and I can’t talk about quantum physics in casual conversation.

I was intrigued by the way science seemed to make Mike’s faith richer and more nuanced, and soon his other podcast Ask Science Mike was in steady rotation during my morning runs as well.

I’ve always enjoyed science, even though it didn’t fit with my conservative, evangelical upbringing. I never bothered to try to reconcile faith and science though. For a long time, I just accepted that science made fact claims that contradicted what the Bible said, and I was okay living with the knowledge of the mystery and tension. It was the elephant in the room of my consciousness, but I just moved a big armoire in front of the tension and called it a day.  Science Mike helped me unpack some of those unreconciled pieces of faith and science and  bring a whole new level of richness to my faith.

I’d believed in a Creator God for most of my life, but learning to see the science of life not as a contradiction but the means in which God was at work took my vision of Creator from one who colored-by-number to one more along the lines of Picasso.

“The heavens declare the glory of God”
….and the neuroscience proclaims God’s handiwork.

So when Mike announced he was writing a book, I knew it would be at the top of my never-ending list.  As expected, Finding God in the Waves combines vivid, compelling narrative with deep-dives into scientific facts in a way only Science Mike could combine them.

It’s irresistibly fresh and comfortingly familiar, kind of like when salted caramel burst on to the flavor scene. Your pallet for ways we talk about the spiritual will never be the same again.

For those unfamiliar with Mike and his podcast, the first half of the book is memoir. Mike recounts his story of growing up in the church, coming to faith, and then of losing his faith in God and becoming an “undercover atheist” while still attending (and teaching Sunday School) at his Southern Baptist church.

In the second half of the book, Mike dives deep and unpacks the science behind what he calls his “Axioms About Christian Faith.”

Science Mike borrow the term “axiom” from philosophy. In brief, his axioms are “ideas that can be accepted without further inquiry” about the Christian faith. He has axioms for major tenants of the Christian such as  God, prayer, Jesus, sin, the Church, and the Bible – among others.

During the last five chapters of the book, Science Mike walks the reader through the question and the science behind the formation of each of these axioms.  The result is a whirlwind trip through the basics of cosmology, neuroscience, and anthropology with splashes of fine art tossed in for good measure.

Mike describes his axioms as “woefully short” of Christian orthodoxy, but he’s okay with that. Instead of seeking to home in on or prove orthodoxy, he says his axioms are “a life raft for people who can’t get on board with the supernatural claims about God yet still want to be close to God.”

I’ve never been quite in need of a life raft personally, but there have been significant seasons in which I’ve felt as though my boat were dead in the water. Science Mike’s axioms are more like fresh wind in my sails, pushing the bounds on the ways I think about, talk about and view God.

___

If you grew up with a faith in God that now seems too small or out of touch with the world you find yourself in now – this book is for you.

If you believed in God at one point, but have long since stopped believing – this book is for you.

If you’ve never believed, but you’re curious about why someone would believe in God – this book is for you.

…Or if you’d just like to know the neuroscience behind why prayer makes you feel more at peace.

I cannot recommend Finding God in the Waves highly enough.

You can find a copy of your own on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, or wherever books are sold.

 

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Searching for Sunday: Confession

My footsteps echoed loudly against the hard wood floor, stained deeply like burnt sienna. The sounds from my high heels against wooden planks bounced from the floor to the rafters to the vast painted dome above and finally back into mine and a dozen other sets of ears around me. I felt like I was invading.  I’ve never been in a Catholic church before, much less a basilica.

I made my way cautiously along the aisle by the confessional booths, equally confounded by their need for existence, ashamed of their abuses and desperately wanting to fling myself inside and break my heart open.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. 

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Confession is unmistakably absent from much of my personal church history.  I got off pretty easy when I repeated the sinners prayer that night after AWANA. I silently repeated the words of the teacher up front. “I confess my sin” I prayed within myself.   No need to be specific about what those sins were. After all, Jesus died to take on all of my sin anyway, so why name them?

Confession lacked by omission, “I have an unspoken prayer request.”
Confession lacked by volition, “You don’t want to hurt our witness, don’t let them see you struggle.”

Confession just…lacked.

I spent many years of faith claiming a rejected, murdered Messiah who routinely welcomed those who were openly hurting and broken, all the while trying to present an polished and perfect appearance to the world around me.

Like so many others, I failed to value confession as a discipline of the faith.  Awkward and painful and time consuming as it is though, confession is vital. When we lose confession as a discipline, we immediately buy into the lie that has pulled humanity away from God since the very beginning: Do this, and you’ll be like God.

Don’t let them see you sweat, and you’ll be like God.
Save face, and you’ll be like God.
Hide your struggles, and you’ll be like God.
Overcommit your wallet…
Over work your life…
Over simplify your arguments…
Over look the faults of your ancestors…

…And you will be like God.

Except, God isn’t looking for people to hide and cover and stitch together facades of life so that they might be “like” God.

“We could not become like God, so God became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed God to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried God in the ground, God got up.” (Searching for Sunday)
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I had dinner with a friend last week.

Actually, I had vegan desserts in the middle of the afternoon, but we called it dinner so it was.

“What’s your story?” He asked, and I shimmied around the joys and broken bits of my life like a flamenco dancer.

“How about you?” I ended my dance with a flourish.

Shaking his head, he spun me back to the first bit I had skirted past and asked me to unpack the baggage I had tried hide amidst swirling skirts and flashing lights.

Step, ball change.

And I finally let it pour out in it’s entirety.
The pouring out of hurt and angry and broken matched by the rushing in of grace like salve on my soul.

“‘I’m a Christian,” Rachel writes, “‘because Christianity names and addresses sin. It acknowledges the reality that the evil we observe in the world is also present within ourselves. It tells the truth about the human condition—that we’re not okay.’”

We’re not okay.
I’m not okay.
And I’m even worse when I refuse to let anyone past the facade of “I’m good, how are you?”

I need to come to that place, daily, of not just walking past a monument of confession or muttering prayers written hundreds of years ago (Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you…) I need to allow those words to take root and open up in my soul.

The things I have done.
The things I have left undone.

Just because I can portray my life as perfect doesn’t mean I should.

“Imagine,” Rachel writes, “if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.”

Everyone is safe, no one is comfortable, and maybe we all could find the bravery within ourselves to step out from behind the bushes and walk confidently with God and one another in the garden once more.

Heartbroken, Yet Still in Pursuit of Justice

I am an eternal optimist.

I look for the best in people. Always.

My greatest bent in life is to look for the ways in which things and people, systems and structures may be restored.

I just see hope and potential everywhere.  Brokenhearted people, antique furniture, neighborhoods crumbling under the foreclosure crisis, students who have fallen through the gaps in the education system.

It is through these rose-tinted lenses that I encountered Gary Haugen’s new book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. 

In The Locust Effect Haugen paints a sobering picture of the effects of violence on the world’s poorest residents.  As the former director of the United Nations Special Investigations Unit on the Rwandan Genocides and current president of International Justice Mission, Haugen is confronted with heartbreaking stories and harrowing realities as often as I am confronted with the challenge of navigating a two-year-old melting down in the grocery store.

The Locust Effect digs in to the nitty gritty of global development, the decidedly unsexy side of addressing poverty.  There are no no quick fixes or easy answers to be found.

“Indeed, for the global poor in this century, there is no higher-priority need with deeper and broader implications than the provision of basic justice systems that can protect them from the devastating ruin of common violence.  Because as anyone who has tasted it knows, if you’re not safe, nothing else matters.” 

I’ve heard campaigns and bought t-shirts, music albums, pairs of shoes and coffee served in red-colored cups all in the name of doing justice in the developing world.

Buy this shirt and help build a school!

Buy this brand of water and help dig a well!

Your paper-bead necklace supports a small business owned by this widow in Kenya!

This red-colored coffee cup will help cure HIV/AIDS!

It all fit so well in my rose-colored, hope-in-any-circumstance, glass-half-full kind of world.

But then I read about the village of La Union in Peru, where in just one week a medical examiner may see as many as 50 rape victims between the ages of 10-13.

I read about the 27 million slaves kept in bondage in the world today, and how their owners are not lurking in dark alleys.  They are announcing their fierceness and violence toward their slaves unabashedly in the streets.

I read that the most common crime committed against children in South Africa is rape.

I read that, horrifically, schools in the developing world are often places of sexual violence toward the girls who attend them in hopes of gaining an education.

As I read, my half-full-glass began to crack and seep.  A slow, sorrowful trickling from the glass and from the corners of my eyes alike.

I had all but convinced myself that magic bullets exist.

I moved into the inner city of Milwaukee four years ago, and fully believed that if we only moved closer to the pain and suffering of others that our proximity would bring restoration.

I read Half the Sky and believed if we could only educate children – boys and girls equally – around the globe, then our communities would be stronger and our hope for the future would be realized.

But there are no magic bullets.

There are no quick fixes.

Our t-shirts, bottled water choices, paper bead necklaces and red-colored cups of coffee cannot ultimately change the world.

They can help.

But as Haugen points out, unless there is a functioning justice system in place in communities in the developing world, any efforts to improve education or access to water, to jumpstart small businesses for single mothers or address health concerns like HIV/AIDS will ultimately be consumed by violence, like locusts bringing havoc on a field ripe for harvest.

“We need to fundamentally change the conversation.  Whenever we speak of global poverty, we must speak of the violence imbedded in that poverty…
In every forum, conference, classroom, policy discussion, think tank, blog, or dinner table conversation where global poverty is center stage, the problem of violence deserves equal time with hunger, dirty water, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, gender discrimination, housing, or sanitation because for the poor, violence is every bit as devastating and is frequently the hidden force undermining solutions to these other needs.”

WIth such overwhelming statistics and gut-wrenching stories The Locust Effect left me wondering a bit about what I could practically do to engage – and hopefully change – such dire circumstances for people around the world.

I’m all for starting conversations and raising awareness, but what more can I do?
(Since, let’s be real, I’m not going back to law school and moving to Peru anytime soon.)

I was encouraged, though, to hear in an interview discussing The Locust Effect Gary Haugen sighting the influence and importance of Millennials in the fight against injustice.

“I think this actually can be the generation that eliminates this epidemic of slavery that we have in the world. This could be the generation, but that will require their capacity – our capacity – to be committed to the stretch of our lives to see that this problem is dealt with.”

The step right now in the journey toward justice?  Adovocate.  Tell the stories. Make the conversations happen.
This may not seem like much sometimes, but this is our role at this moment and we must be faithful to it.
The journey we’re embarking on is a long one.  Slavery and oppression and the stripping of human dignity have been around for centuries.  But rather than be discouraged by the magnitude of the problem, let us be encouraged in the steps we personally can take today.  To open our eyes, to lean in, to let our hearts ache, to tell our circles of influence what we have seen.
The path to freedom and wholeness for humanity is a marathon, not a sprint.  I’m training for a half-marathon right now, and some days all I can focus on is putting one foot in front of the other mile after tediously long mile.

This is our call, generation.  My millennials, in the house.  That we would be faithful, step after step, mile after mile of this journey.  That we would not grow tired of running the race.  That the stories of the victims and the freed would ever be on our lips.  That we would be “committed to the stretch of our lives.”  Every last breath given in some way to seeing dignity and wholeness granted to each person on earth.

Your turn.

You can start to make an impact on the epidemic of violence against the poor today.  How?
1) Read The Locust Effect and get informed.  If you purchase a copy of the book by tomorrow, February 15th, a partner of IJM will donate $20 to help fight violence against the poor.
2) Spread the word.  Link to this blog and to http://www.thelocusteffect.com to help get the word out and inform other people.
3) Stay engaged.  Let your heart break for this daily.  Do not grow tired of speaking up and getting the word out.  We need you in this for the long haul.

I’m giving away one free copy of The Locust Effect to a reader, just follow the instructions below for your chance to win this paradigm shifting book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dangerous Presence: Risk Management

This is the third post in a series discussing the book Dangerous Presence by Jason Butler. You can read more or purchase the book here.

“Americans typically don’t like risk.  We see risk as bad, dangerous.  Risk can get us into trouble, ruin our finances, and mess up our future.  Most of the time, we play it safe – in our finances, careers and businesses…We’re OK with some risk, but not much.”

Butler begins chapter three with a brief examination of American culture, in which “risk management” isn’t just a job description – it’s a lifestyle.  He makes the distinction between “risk” and “greed” in this assessment, saying that “‘risk’ is the danger of losing something” and “‘Greed’ is the desire to gain more.”

American culture is a mess of dichotomies surrounding risk and greed.

On one hand, we’re told that the pot is only so big, that we should work hard, save what we earn, store up for a rainy day, make sure that if we do give any of our money/time/resource away that it is going to something truly worth it.

Scarcity is embedded in the America as inextricably as our fingerprints.

On the other hand though, we are also bombarded dawn to dusk with the message that we need more.  That what we have is not enough, and therefore we are not enough.  We must have the latest, greatest, shiniest, fastest.  Our current home is too small, too old, or in the wrong neighborhood and so we need a new home.  Our current car is not safe enough, consumes too much gas, and is lacking in the latest, life-changing features that will warm our hearts and seats simultaneously.

Protect what you have, but constantly be reaching for more.  No wonder we feel like our hands are so full.

“Because of this matrix of fear, greed, and scarcity, American culture values safety above almost any value.  We want to keep our kids, houses, future, and retirements safe.  We have become so obsessed with safety that we have produced a culture of fear…
…The Bible calls it ‘the way of the world.’ Don’t conform to it.  Repent of it.  Renew your mind out of it.  Sin is dangerous, but fear is like nuclear fallout.”

It’s interesting to think about fear being the way of the world, and not something of God.

I grew up, like I’m sure many of you did, praying for safety over trips our church would take.

Assessing whether or not we should be ministering to certain populations based on how much it may be a detriment to our personal safety, our public image as a church or organization, what people might say or think.

Being instructed not to feed or spend time with the homeless, because it was too risky and just not worth it.

And even now, so many people, people who love Jesus a lot, are floored when they find out where Ben, Cadence and I live.

“Is it safe there?”

No.  Not always.

But someone once told me that the safest place you can be is in the middle of God’s will.

I clung to this for years, through good times and bad, but I’m starting to move away from that idea, because you see

God doesn’t promise us safety.

 

There was a song back in the 90’s that went something like “You created nothing that brings me more pleasure than You, and You won’t give me something that gives me more pleasure than You” (“You Created” – Caedmon’s Call).

I think for most of us in the U.S. we derive more pleasure from our own safety and self-preservation than we do from the Lord Most High. 

Even in saying that the “safest place we could be is in God’s will” is a bending of our knee to the idols of safety and self-preservation.

“Okay God, I will follow you anywhere because the safest place I can be is where you want me to be.”

What if we went wherever God wanted us to be, did whatever God called us to do, loved whoever God wanted us to love even if it wasn’t safe?

And before you protest, may I remind you that our history as followers of Jesus is rife with the death and destruction of our brothers and sisters for the sake of Christ.

The twelve were beaten, exiled, crucified and otherwise killed like the Rabbi they walked so closely with.

You don’t have to look very hard to find countless stories of missionaries who were endangered or killed for their presence.

Lottie Moon marching through a battlefield in China.

Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and others killed for going to reach the unreached, and moreover, their wives and families staying faithful to the tribe that murdered them and bringing a whole group of people to Christ.

When I think about my spiritual heritage, I’m really not doing anything that crazy or dangerous.  Everyone in my neighborhood speaks English.  I have running water and heat and air conditioning.  I have a car.  I eat what I like, whenever I want and drink coffee every morning.

I’m not suffering, but according to so many I’m really living on the edge.

“We come from a long line of risk takers, of great lovers, of those willing to put others in front of themselves, of those willing to pour themselves out for the benefit of others.”

“Where is that risk today?”  Butler asks at the end of this challenging chapter.

“We settle for selfish, individualistic, small lives when God is calling us to live into a bigger story.”

What about you?  Is your walk with Christ more centered on risk management and the pursuit of safety, or the pursuit of Christ wherever God may take you?
Are you worshiping your own self preservation or the God who calls us to love in extraordinary ways, in dangerous places, to broken people whom God Godself is aching and yearning to redeem?

How big is your story?

“You come from a long line of risk takers.  Please don’t settle for safety – take a risk for the kingdom of God.  You were told that the world will know you by your love, not your pursuit of self-satisfaction.  Let go.  Embrace the life God has for you – the life centered around others and not yourself.  Do that and you will have a story to tell, a story of redemption, a story of grace, a story of restoration.

You will lose much, but you just might gain everything.”

Dangerous Presence – What About Bob?

This post is the second in a series discussing the book Dangerous Presence: Following Jesus Into the City by Jason Butler.  You can read more about or purchase the book here

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What About Bob?

Butler begins his second chapter by introducing readers to his friend Bob.  “[Bob is] older than most of my friends.  At seventy-five, he has a passion for engaging in systematic issues of oppression in the city…Bob has made a lot of money in his life, working his way up to CEO for a retirement community.  He knows what success looks like in the business world.”

The insight Bob shares with Butler over breakfast one morning hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Bob told me, ‘I have spent my whole life doing what I wanted to do and asking God to bless it.  I’m tired of living that way.  I want to start doing what God wants me to do.'”

How often have I done this exact thing?

I go on a trip and I pray for God’s blessing and protection.

I plan an event and I ask for God to bring people to it.

I coordinate a program and ask God to bring the participants and the volunteers.

Bless me!  Bless me!  Bless me!

I think if we’re honest, many of us approach God in this way.  Attempting to serve and engage in what God is doing, but not within the context of God’s Lordship over our lives.  Rather than showing up as the beggars we are with open hands and hearts rendered, we show up with our list of strengths and talents, gifts and passions. Bullet pointed, spread sheeted, pie charted ideas on how we can best be utilized by our Creator and Sustainer

…or maybe that’s just me.

Butler writes about a similar experience of coming to God with all his plans and dreams, all his vision as he struggled to plant Transformation City Church in the inner city of Milwaukee.

“I remember the moment of epiphany for me.  I was driving.  I had been praying a mix of laments (‘Oh God, why is this happening to me? Where are you?’) and deal brokering (‘God, if you open up a door for another chance, I will serve you with all that I am.’)  Basically I was trying to make a deal with God to get me out of this terrible situation.”

We are often seduced by the lie of self-preservation, sometimes to the point of trying to wheel and deal with the One who knows our every thought before we dare to whisper it and our knows the root of our every need.  Yet it is only when we surrender ourselves, our wants, our dreams, our plans and our desires that we can truly identify the siren song of the Liar for what it is.

“God doesn’t really love you. God is withholding something from you. God doesn’t see or care. God doesn’t want you to be happy.”

This is the intoxicating, mind numbing, soul atrophying song of the Liar.  Listening to this song leads us to believe the most valuable thing we could do would be to protect, promote and make much of ourselves, because God certainly does not care nor is God at work.

But

When we identify the Liar’s song as what it is – a terrible lie from the pit of hell – we can begin to have our ears tuned to hear another voice.  The voice of God and the voices which God hears.

“In that moment, I started following Jesus.
For so many years, I had been listening to the voices promising personal success.  When those noises were finally silenced, things got very quiet.  I heard something new, something I had not heard before: the cry of my city, the cry of the oppressed, the marginalized, the enslaved.  And when I heard that cry, it overwhelmed me in such a way that I could not hear anything else.”

Scripture tells us over and over again that God hears the cry of the oppressed.  God sees the misery of people.

God hears. God sees. God responds.

And God uses us to do it.

For Butler, he heard the cry of the oppressed in Milwaukee.

According to the 2010 census, Milwaukee is the fourth poorest city in the U.S., it is the single most racially segregated, it has a 55% unemployment rate among African-American men, and the high school graduation rate is just scraping above 50%.

Stats like these are what brought me to Milwaukee.

Ben and I heard the cry clear in the mountains of West Virginia.

Since we moved here though, the cry has gotten closer.  It’s gotten personal.  It’s up in my business.  It sounds like my neighbors, my friends.

I’ve had single mom’s who work first and third shift and take classes in their “spare time” try to sell me food stamps so they could buy their child diapers.
…and I once would have called them “lazy.”

I’ve walked with fifth grade boys who are talented and passionate, but who cannot read.
…and I once would have written them off as “failures” and “drop outs.”

I’ve struggled with single mothers being evicted from their homes with three days notice, all because they refused to pay their rent until their landlord fixed the roof that was literally caving in on their infant child’s bedroom.
…and I would have once called her “irresponsible” and accused her of not caring for her children.

“Injustice begins to break down when someone chooses to move closer.”

But first it will break your heart, scare you half to death and make you angrier than a bull.

The write-offs become neighbors.  The drop-outs become friends.

The gang members tell their people to stay away from you, because in some weird way you’re their family too.

You get broken into, things get stolen, your space gets violated, but you realize it doesn’t matter.

Because you can’t preserve yourself, only God can do that.

You are called horrific names, the cops stop and frisk you on your morning walk for being a white person in a black neighborhood, men ask your husband if they can “borrow you.”

But you’re not scared.

You don’t stop.

Because you’ve stopped listening to the Liar.

And instead all you hear is the love song of Creator singing the high notes over you and the cry of the oppressed, a dissonant harmony that aches for resolution.

And that compels you.  That keeps you up at night.  That keeps you rooted when the world tells you to run away.  That “those people” aren’t even worth reaching.

“As everyone else flees from the pain in our cities we are being called into the city. We are saying softly, ‘God has heard your cry. Jesus is here. He’s been here all along. And because you are here and Jesus is here, we want to be here too.  We will not leave you. We will stand with you, no matter what. We don’t have all the answers, and we don’t know how this will turn out, but we stand with you against whatever oppressive force seeks to tear you down.’  We may lose something in this endeavor, but we may find something as well.”

Friday Book Club: Dangerous Presence

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I am so excited to be sharing this book with you today!
Recently Jason Butler the lead pastor at Transformation City Church released his first book:
Dangerous Presence: Following Jesus into the City.

So, yes, the book is written by the lead pastor of the church I serve in; it is in large part the vision that Ben and I bought into when we moved to Milwaukee from West Virginia, and some of our own little adventures in the city are included in the book…
BUT!
Even aside from all of these things, this is a really excellent work and I truly believe a must-read for anyone who wants to truly pick up their cross and follow Jesus (an idea that Butler addresses at some length in the beginning of the book).

Don’t take my very (and admittedly) biased word for it though, check out what theologian Walter Brueggemann had to say:

“[Butler] brings to expression the local radicality of the gospel as concerns missional urgency. Readers will be drawn into a fresh understanding of the gospel for a society that does not value our bodily existence very much.  The word dangerous is exactly right for what Butler has in mind.”

I’m going to work my way through this one chapter by chapter and post thoughts on Friday – hence the name “Friday Book Club”.

You can order Dangerous Presence on Amazon and follow along (and you really should do that).
Comments are welcome and encouraged.  Let’s wrestle through this one together!

Orange Peels

Butler opens his book by recounting a story from his time serving in the remote Russian village, Lyahi.  While in Lyahi Butler witnessed a group of orphans eating oranges one afternoon.  Upon finishing the fruit, the children proceeded to eat the peels as well.  When Butler asked why the children did this, he was told it was because the children did not know when their next meal would be.

Moments like this, when we are faced with abject poverty cause us (Americans) to pause and question.
I think many of us turn the questions that rise to the surface back on God, at least I know I have certainly done that.

Well, why does God allow innocent children to suffer?

What kind of world is this anyway?

How could a loving God allow people to starve?

Butler describes this moment of reckoning as having a “boulder from heaven” fall on and crush him.

“Kids eating orange peels is injustice.  It’s not the way the world should be.  It shows something is wrong, and we realize it the moment we see it.  It’s like a flash bang of brokenness that momentarily paralyzes our senses.

Or maybe that was the rock.”

As Butler wrestled through this “flash bang of brokenness” he came to realize that the only way he could truly impact the brokenness in Lyahi would be to give up his life and move to Lyahi.  To relocate into the heart of brokenness.

This is something we don’t like to think about in the Church in the U.S.  We don’t like to think that in order for real, lasting change to occur that it will likely cost us dearly.  We don’t like to think about the Lordship of Christ also dictating where we live, what jobs we do or do not take and whether or not we are in an environment that is considered “safe”.

We would rather go, serve for a week to ten days, feel good about ourselves – like we’ve helped to make a difference, and then return to what is comfortable and safe.

But as Butler notes in his very first chapter, “Injustice begins to break down when someone chooses to move closer.

We can’t glimpse at injustice from afar, and believe that we have been healed of our cultural blindness.

We cannot dip our toes into the bitter fountain of injustice and claim to have turned the waters sweet.

We must jump in.  We must move closer.

I love the song “Albertine” by Brooke Fraser.  One of the lines from the chorus haunts my days almost constantly:

“Now that I have seen, I am responsible.  Faith without deeds is dead.”

Now that I have seen, I am responsible.

In this globalized, 24-news, social media driven world, how much have we seen?  How many stories are we responsible for?
How many children have we seen eating orange peels, but (like Butler) decided it was too much, too costly to fully engage in?

“Injustice begins to break down when someone chooses to move
closer.

For personal reflection or discussion in comments below:

What places scare you?  

What stories break your heart?

Which people would you prefer to just write off completely?

How would moving closer to those places, those stories begin to break down the injustices surrounding them?