A Leader’s Lament

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Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!

From Charity to Justice

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St. Francis once said, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up. For it is in giving that we receive.”

Being involved in charity, which is not a bad thing, means to give to a person or an organization who will be doing the reaching down and the lifting up of people.

They are what you would call, a middleman, buffering you from the actual experience of reaching and lifting.

Charity allows you to help someone or a group of people without having to experience the pain or discomfort or inconvenience of what they are going through. Charity protects you.

But charity also robs you. It robs you of depth, purpose and the joy that can only come from reaching down and lifting up the people that your charity has actually protected you from. Charity can actually distance you from God.

Did I say that charity is not bad? I think I did. And it’s true. We need charity. We need generosity. We need to give to causes that we cannot personally be involved with.

Organizations that are on the front lines of war, disease, hunger and extreme poverty need our charity.

Yet…ultimately, God is not a God of charity but a God of justice. And because God is a God of justice, then so must we.

Justice is about a young girl in Africa having the same rights and opportunities as a young girl in the United States.

Justice is about a mother in Guatemala having the same access to medical care as a mother in the U.K.

Justice is about an inner city student being given the same quality education as an upper class suburban student. Bill Gates has said that “Until we’re educating every kid in a fantastic way, until every inner city is cleaned up, there is no shortage of things to do.”

Justice is about a foster child in America receiving a family support system that will propel them towards a sustainable future.

Justice is about a hungry belly at the bottom of the caste system in India having the same access to food as the bulging bellies of the upper caste system.

Justice is harder than charity.
Justice demands results.
Justice requires skin in the game.
Justice means sometimes eliminating the middleman.
Justice means we have to get our hands dirty, our knees skinned, our ego’s humbled and our comfort shaken.
Justice means we must learn to get along with each other so we can accomplish a greater good.

Justice is harder than charity, but it is exactly in these hard places that we see and experience the heart of God.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

He also said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, which reminds us that we must be involved in local and global justice.

I am not sure if you will meet God in a worship service and I am not sure you will meet God in a sermon(there are some bad ones out there), but I am sure that you will meet God when you get involved in justice.

Shane Claiborne says “Charity can function to keep the wealthy sane. Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, also function as outlets that allow Christians to pay off their consciences while avoiding a revolution of lifestyle. People do their time in a social program or distribute food and clothes through organizations which take their excess. That way, they never actually have to face the poor and give their clothes, their food, their beds. Wealthy Christians never actually have to be with poor people, with Christ in disguise.”

This is counterintuitive to our segregated, protected, “stand at a distance” kind of church life, but we must not just care about the poor, or give to the poor but we must meet, hang out, know, befriend and touch the poor.

Shane Claiborne goes on to say, “But when we get to heaven and are separated into sheep and goats (Matt. 25), I don’t believe Jesus is going to say, “When I was hungry, you gave a check to the United Way and they fed me” or “When I was naked, you donated to the Salvation Army and they clothed me.” Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He is seeking concrete actions: “You fed me, … you visited me, … you welcomed me in, … you clothed me.…” If we are to truly be the church, poverty must become a face we recognize as our own kin.” http://www.thesimpleway.org/resources/content/downward-mobility-in-an-upscale-world-by-shane-claiborne/

When Jesus says feed, shelter, comfort, visit, clothe,  you are doing justice and it can be difficult but that is where you will meet him and you will experience a joy that cannot be taken away.

When the prophet Isaiah says to defend the defenseless and to fight corruption and abuse, you are doing justice and it can be painful, but that is where you meet the God of Justice and your legacy will be as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of cities, and you’ll experience a sense of fulfillment that you have been  searching for.

When the writer of Proverbs says that when you give to the poor, you are lending to God and he will repay you well, you are doing justice, and it may be cause you to have to change your lifestyle, but you will learn to trust the God who will provide for your every need and you’ll experience a spirit of generosity that will set you free.

God simply asks us to show up, for a grieving mother, a lonely elder, a sick child, a hungry family, a struggling addict, a lost soul, and as we show up, though we can’t solve everyone’s problems, somehow God uses us as agents of healing and miracles happen.

I see it all the time, by just showing up.

A few Saturday mornings ago, 250 people showed up to my church campus at 8am in the morning. All in glow-in-the-dark t-shirts.

What were they doing? Where were they going?

They showed up to love forgotten seniors by fixing abandoned decks and to build liberating wheel-chair ramps.

They showed up to plant 1600 life giving vegetable so that hungry families can eat nutritious food this year.

They showed up to bring dignity where there was too little and hope where there was only despair.

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250 people.

Saturday morning, 8am.

What were they doing?

They were doing justice.

They were meeting Jesus in disguise.

I challenge people who call themselves Christians to show up.

Show up in your own backyard where orphans are called foster children, to the jungles of Peru where mosquito’s kill children, to the slums of India where young girls are violated, to the famine deserts of Africa where bloated bellies scream for nourishment, to the inner cities of America where young men are growing up fatherless and drug dealing is the career of choice, I challenge you to show up.

For big causes of justice and small causes of justice, show up!

Albert Einstein said, “In matters of justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”

Fractured

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My heart has been broken with the recent tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut.

Words are hard to come by and emotions are hard to control.

I am holding on to this promise for them that, “God is close to the broken hearted and he lifts up those who are crushed in spirit.”

The closest way I can explain how I am feeling is what Jeremiah recorded in the ninth chapter of his book: “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”

I told my church over the weekend that I was thankful for them because we could grieve and pray together, in community, for the families, leaders and people of  Newtown.

It really struck me how important being a part of a healthy community is.

The Apostle Paul gave this wisdom to the Romans when he said, “Rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Mourn with those who are mourning.”

We stay in dark places when we grieve alone.

Something supernatural and healing happens when we grieve in community. It is hard to explain, but I felt it this weekend.

Many in Newtown have expressed how knowing the nation and the world is grieving and praying with and for them has helped their wounded, stunned hearts.

But there is something else about being a part of a healthy community that is very important.

The healthier the community, the less of these kinds of tragedies will happen.

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity has stated that, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”

Yet, many communities are not whole or healthy.

While people are more concerned about their own “bottom line” and cities wanting the “homeless” to go somewhere else, communities will not be whole or healthy.

While the media continues to exploit children with violence and sex and the philosophy of the day is to incarcerate rather than rehabilitate, communities will not be whole or healthy.

With the low prioritization of the mentally ill and the ignorance the impact that broken families have on social and economic health, communities will not be whole or healthy.

If we keep thinking that technology is the answer while people have never been more isolated and lonely, communities will not be whole or healthy.

And if we continue to be a nation of “survival of the fittest”, even though the scriptures tell us to “love the least of these”, communities will not be whole or healthy.

Charles Dickens said a long time ago, “Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.”

There is a lot of discussion about what “laws” do we need to change to make sure this never happens again.

We don’t need more laws, we need face to face “soul encouragers” helping those in their community who are hurting and struggling to be “brave and true.”

Laws divide and polarize and keep us from getting to the heart.

Jesus didn’t come to change laws, he came to change hearts.

I don’t have any problem debating whether we need better, more or less gun laws. I like a good debate and I think they can be enlightening for both sides.

But thinking laws will solve this complicated, multi-layered issue is like talking about what size of rain gutters should I get while a category 5 hurricane is approaching my house.

This is also not about trying to go back to the ‘good old’ days.

The rhetoric of going back to the ‘good old’ days is a weak argument, since the ‘good old’ days were full of racial bigotry and women having few rights.

This is not about going back, but rather moving forward.

This is about moving forward towards different priorities.

This is about a high level commitment and understanding how important community is. To paraphrase William James, “A community is only as strong as its weakest link and life, after all, is all about community.”

We cannot continue to live in our locked up homes, thinking that if we don’t look out our window, then we are safe and not responsible for what we do not see.

This is a dangerous lifestyle and it compromises healthy communities. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We must move forward committing our lives to the greater whole.

We must move forward to a new way of living.

Where a child’s protection will trump a companies profits.

Where a forgotten senior citizen is remembered and celebrated.

Where the homeless are befriended and empowered.

Where the rich learn from the poor.

Where the single mom is valued and lifted out of poverty.

Where the addict is embraced and equipped towards recovery.

Where the mentally ill are understood and assisted.

Where broken families are given tools to help them repair.

Where everyone in the community is treated equally, with deep respect.

Where everyone is on “common ground.”

It is what the scriptures call JUSTICE.

We must move forward.

“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.” Isaiah 58:12

Big World, Small Minds

It’s a big world with small minds
Distractions and riches make eyes blind
Egos clash, religions rage
God is love, just keep him caged

Titles and treasures, I am willing to share it
I want to change the world, as long as I get the credit
Philosophies built on Fox News, CNN, Dr. Phil
I am afraid of the wrong things, naivety kills

Pray for my enemy, they were made in God’s image
My prayers fall short, I divide who should be forgiven
It’s easy to do good, but great is what we should
Better to fail at great, then to succeed at good

The shirt I wear, a kid made so far away
The rich get richer, while he barely gets paid
I should care about justice, I know it’s wrong
But my appetite for things, my addictions are strong

I give God my all, I give God my best
As long as it fits my schedule, that is the test
I go to church to feel good, to be entertained
While in Niger, 1 of every 3 girls marries before fifteen

Girls exploited, objects of pleasure
Used as property, yet made as God’s treasure
Seen as the least of these, yet so much potential
Educate, liberate and see the world more powerful

There is no longer Jew, Gentile or color
In the words of Mr. Hybels, “You have never looked into the eyes of a person Jesus didn’t die for.”

We have the medicine, the resources to give
In the words of Mr. Hewson, “Where you live should not determine whether you live.”

Lose your life to find it, you are more blessed when giving
I’m holding on too tight, I’ve lost the point of living
My Father loves it when I invest and share it.
My culture loves it when I keep and spend it.

Life’s mixed with blessings, struggles and pain
Make sure you laugh, cry and help those through the rain
The only thing certain, is that nothing is certain
Except for eternity, on the other side of the curtain

Today is a gift, tomorrow not guaranteed
Love overcomes evil, captives are freed
So what is required, heaven will applaud
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.