Every morning when I blow dry my hair, I read. A physical book with a front and back cover and pages in between does not work well. I can’t keep it open. My phone is too small and I tend to look down when reading my phone, so my already thick hair just expands beyond help. So the best solution is my Kindle. I prop my beloved Kindle Paperwhite up on the bathroom counter, set the font size to an easy-to-read option, then sit back in my chair and read hands free, only having to reach up and touch the screen whenever I need to turn the page.
I don’t have a lot of books on my Kindle, but I do have one absolute favorite – 7 by Jen Hatmaker. I’m currently on my fourth trip through 7. I have a paperback copy, which I read first. That copy has highlights and underlines galore. Then I bought it on my Kindle, which is good, because my paperback is often loaned out to one friend or another.
How Jen has written the book makes it easy to read in short five to ten minute segments of time, so it’s the perfect hair drying/straightening book. The remarkable thing to me is that even this morning – my third time to read this book on my Kindle – I was highlighting more sections.
After highlighting a certain section this morning, my friend, Brooke, texted me and I shared the section with her because it was relevant to our conversation.
Brooke and her husband, Jon, are currently in the process of adopting a child from China. Brooke is one of those people who pays attention to the world and not just America. It’s one of my favorite things about her. In fact, thirteen years ago, Brooke was with me at a concert when we heard a presentation about Compassion International. She and I went to the Compassion table at intermission to look at all the child packets and she helped me pick out my first sponsored child – Juan from Guatemala. Juan was standing in a green, mountainous area wearing jeans, a pink and blue sweatshirt, and a big grin. She picked out a little girl to sponsor who had her hand on her hip and looked to be full of sass. To this day, Brooke and I still volunteer for Compassion together sometimes.
I love America. I’m so thankful to have been born in America. But at the same time, a lot of the Christian culture in America bothers me. There’s a lot of selfishness here. (I am absolutely guilty of this myself.) There’s a lot of petty emphasis on preferences that really don’t matter. (Again, I’m guilty.) I read a book a few weeks ago – Crazy Love by Francis Chan – and it was made obvious to me that I’ve let simple preferences carry far too much weight. It’s silly, really, but I definitely fall into that category. There’s a lot of emphasis on the prosperity gospel, which I have yet to find anywhere in the Bible. (While I absolutely do not buy into the “name it claim it” and “God wants you to have lots of stuff” school of thought, I definitely do like my stuff and I have a lot of it. I am very much a consumer.) Brooke showed me a quote by David Platt – “We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the Gospel is American and how much is Biblical.” Indeed. (This was another topic that was addressed a bit in Crazy Love.)
I’ve heard so many people who refuse to look outside the borders of the United States of America at anyone else. I’ve heard of people who are against foreign aid to other countries; I heard someone I know and genuinely admire talk about why he didn’t agree with foreign aid. I’ve heard people make very rude comments about international adoption. Some people don’t understand why anyone would want to adopt from somewhere other than America. (I think a lot of people don’t understand wanting to adopt at all.) This sort of attitude was the source of Brooke’s frustrations and our conversation today. It gets under my skin as well and Brooke and I know that when we are fed up with this sort of thing and want to vent our frustrations, we can vent to each other. It bothers me, but I would imagine it bothers Brooke more. Brooke has a child out there who has likely already been born and is waiting to be matched to his or her family – an awesome family. Brooke is a Mama waiting on her baby from China – a baby who is no less worthy of a family than any child born in America. To Brooke, it’s personal.
For God so loved the world … (John 3:16)
Go into all the world and share the Gospel … (Mark 16:15)
Whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for Me … (Matthew 25:40)
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)
I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t those in America who could use our help and attention. There are lots. But I just don’t want to forget that there’s a whole big world out there outside of these borders. My Compassion kids are a reminder of this. Several friends of mine who have adopted or are working to adopt internationally are a reminder of this. I’m thankful for them all. For God so loved the world.
Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite songwriters. He has a song he wrote after going on a trip with Compassion and feeling confronted with how spoiled we are in America and the comfort we’ve become accustomed to. I’ve always found these lyrics to be profound.
Little Elba how’s the sun in South America
Does it shine upon the faces of the poor?
Do they see in it the brilliance of the place that’s been prepared
And dwell upon the hope of what’s in store?
Or are they just like me
Do they only see an opportunity
To complain about the heat?
And little Elba how’s the rain in South America
Does it fall upon the roof tops of the sick?
Do they thank the Lord for coming up with such a great idea
And dream about a place beyond all this?
Or are they just like us
Do they gripe and fuss
About the rain and mud
When they’ve had too much?
And I’m just a little jealous of the nothing that you have
You’re unfettered by the wealth of a world that we pretend is gonna last
They say God’s blessed us with plenty
but I say you’re blessed with less than me
Because you never stop to wonder
Whether earth is just a little better than the land of the free
Well I’m weary of the spoils of my ambition
And I’m shackled by the comfort of my couch
Well I wish I had the courage to deny these of myself
And start to store my treasure in the clouds
Cause this is not my home
I do not belong where the antelope and the buffalo roam
So I hope you’re safe and dry in South America
Cause I’m feeling pretty good in Tennessee
But may you never be so happy that you forget about your home
Your home in the land of the free
These thoughts may all seem scattered, but it’s just stuff that’s been turning over in my mind for a while. It‘s really just a stream of consciousness at this point. I’ll probably elaborate on some of it before too long, or will at least talk about it with a few close friends, but for now a lot of it is marinating. I’m trying to figure out what a lot of these things mean for my life.
But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts – this person will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:22-25
I want to be a doer, because a lot of times, I’m just a good hearer.
I’ll end with two quotes from 7 along these lines.
Here’s the one I shared with Brooke this morning. Jen had just written about a homeless woman who interrupted their Easter service they held with the homeless community and made everyone (including Jen) uncomfortable. It was the next day when preparing for a speaking engagement that she made this connection. She compared the woman to Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) who called out loudly for Jesus while others tried to make him be quiet. Jesus was merciful to him & healed his blindness. James and John, just a few verses earlier, asked Jesus to allow them to sit at His right & left hand in glory.
The poor world is begging for mercy like Bartimaeus, while the rich world is asking for more favor like James and John. While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering. It’s just not right.
And then there’s this:
This life is a breath. Heaven is coming fast, and we live in that thin space where faith and obedience have relevance. We get one shot at living to expand the kingdom, fighting for justice. We’ll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us. We’ll have one moment to say, “This is how I lived.”
To me that’s heavy. Lots to think about.