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We’re Just a Pile of Change

They’re no different from me.

They who now don’t have houses,
don’t have water,
don’t have cars,
are missing pets,
lacking livelihood,
have lost loved ones.

They’re no different from me.

Oh, but I want to make them
the object of judgment
the image of wrath,
victims of poor planning,
poor execution, poor choices,
I want to make them these,
for my own well-being.

But I can’t.
They’re no different from me.

“Oh,” I cry, “but look at them!”
They are dimes and I’m a quarter,
They are copper, I am nickel
They are silver, I am gold.

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Because, here I am and there they are.
But no, they are not different from me.

They of the lifeboats, and the life jackets,
Who hold fast to the hands of the small ones,
Who carry all that remains wrapped in plastic.
They are chosen, too.

Who am I, if not they?

I’m at your service,
I’ve chosen to be chosen.

For any outcome, any service, any sacrifice.
There’s no fine print in the service contract.
I am at your disposal.
I knew the risk when I signed up.

But did I know that it might come to this?

That you would risk me,
for the other You so love, because
You love me that much, too?
That’s the only way it can be
In God’s economy.

Lord, help me see
coins of different denomination,
different luster, and different lineage,
yet of singular value. Inestimable.

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By the Lord’s accounting,
We’re all just a pile of change.

One by one, He loves us.
One by one, He meets us.
One by one, He saves us.
God only counts to one.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Sometimes Mission is not so Far Afield

I made a wrong turn on my way to a training session. Darn that GPS, it proclaims “you have arrived!” just as you pass the turn. Thankfully, just up the road there was a big church parking lot where I could make a U-turn. On exiting the lot, I was greeted by this sign: 20081008

I let the car idle for a moment as I considered this. There, in my training shorts, shoes and sport shirt, was I really entering the mission field?

I have never actually been on a mission trip. Never stood with a group before the congregation to send me off to a distant land to build a church, or to a neighboring state that has experienced devastation, nor even to the inner city to lend a hand to those living in poverty. Could it be that right here, right now, with my little training business in my own community, I was knee deep in mission? Maybe I didn’t need to go on a trip after all.

I wasn’t exactly “called” to Fit2Finish. Not in a voice-from-heaven-that-insisted-I-go way. It’s been more of a constant contact kind of thing. On this day, I was meeting up with Emily, a 16 year old basketball player, who’d had ACL reconstructive surgery in February. We had already had several sessions, but this time we were meeting on the basketball court of a middle school near her home. She had been cleared to return to play, but it would be my first time to meet her father, Roy, who was bringing her. He wasn’t so sure she was ready. What’s so “missional” about this?

I have walked this road before, and it can get rocky in the space between a sporting kid delighted to have permission to return to play and the father who loves them so much it would absolutely kill them to see their child injured again. (Incidentally, the mothers tend to do much better; it’s more often the fathers who wince at the prospect.)

I put Emily through her paces. She runs, jumps, dribbles, and shoots. She stops and starts, pivots and hesitates, and drives the lane for a lay-up. Roy and I both shag balls as we watch, and I make a point to join him under the basket to hear what he’s thinking. His reflective sunglasses prevent my reading his face for cues.

“What do you see?” I ask him. After all, he is the expert. He has been watching this kid since she toddled with a ball.

“How does it feel?” I ask Emily when she jogs over. After all, it’s her body. She knows it inside and out.

I haven’t said a word. Not offered any observations, made any corrections, agreed or disagreed with any statements made. I have just created the circumstance to watch and listen, as father and daughter hear each other out to discover their common ground.

On this sunny day in August, with a cool breeze blowing across the playground, things go smoothly. It’s not always like this. Sometimes there are undertones and misgivings, ushered in with angst and fear. Parents don’t trust their kids. Kids are frustrated with their parents. Parents want to wait. Kids are in a hurry. Parents have expectations. Kids want to meet expectations but they can’t. Sometimes, it gets ugly.

I can’t ever be sure how things will go, but it seems where I’m meant to be. “You are now entering the mission field.” It’s not exactly a “sharing the faith” kind of thing, but I am convinced that somehow, when I put on those training sneakers, I am standing on holy ground.

Funny, as I prepare to shuttle my own 18 year old off to Virginia Tech this week, expanding the space between us and leaving the proverbial “empty nest,” I will especially miss her poignant observations about life. Often, just a few words captioning a drawing in a memory dusted off. In our cleaning out and packing, she has pulled out a book she made as a first grader. FullSizeRender (7)On the ‘Meet My Mom’ page, she has written, “(My mom) really likes to tech pepol to stresh.”

I do like to teach people to stretch. Guess I have been at this longer than I thought.

Teaching people to stretch… their limbs, their minds, their lives, toward their goals, their dreams, and toward each other. Now THAT is a mission field. Amazing how those wrong turns remind us.

What they need, not what we have, is what is needed

Give us a few links and we’ll complete the chain. Sketch a few shapes and we’ll fill in the picture. Hum a few bars and we’ll finish the song. Humans are designed to add the details so the story comes clearer. Even if it’s not the real story. Even if it’s not the right song or the intended picture. Our minds like wholeness and are so dissatisfied with the unfinished, we finish it.

The funny thing is, completion is so satisfying it will seem right even if it’s wrong. In fact, when we are shown the “real” facts of the case or the actual story line, we are surprised. Come on, I know he said that! We may even insist on reading the original work or listening to the recording to convince ourselves we are in error.

I find this fascinating, even as I find myself completely guilty. I complete the story with my version all the time. Jump to conclusions. Suppose the ending. Presume I know what that person is thinking or what he’s been planning or what motivates him. But I don’t. What I “know” is actually a creation. My mind has been filling in the blanks based on my information, my experiences, my know-how, my culture, my upbringing, my…everything. I make no apologies: this is how I am made. And so are we all.  Created to complete the story. Our story.

This does get kind of comical when you’re a by-stander to a conversation where one person is trying to solve another person’s problem based on their own symptoms, their own treatment and their own outcome. We seek to be empathetic and we are trying hard to help or solve or correct, but we have filled in our own details and these may be very different from the facts of the case.

It is why testifying as a witness is such a tricky business. We believe what we’re saying but it just may not be true. It’s why speaking up without authority or diving in without full understanding is not fruitful and can be damaging. We are experts in our own lives and may be experts in our own fields, but this doesn’t mean we hold the solution to the problem.

I am reminded of this as today is World Malaria Day. A child dies of this preventable disease every 60 seconds, many thousands of them in Africa where our church has a hospital seeking to address this problem. That’s pretty much all I know. I do not know these children or their mothers. I don’t know what their homes look like, or even if they have homes. What I know is my own life, which is malaria free. So, what is the problem?

The problem is that a child dies every 60 seconds. Period. Just imagine what it must be like to hold a child who is dying from malaria. Who is suffering from attacks lasing 6-10 hours of chills and shaking followed by high fever, headaches and muscle pain. Imagine having no resources to comfort the child and no hope of curing them.

I can only imagine that dimly. I am very far away. But today I am trying to learn more about it so I can imagine it better. Because I suffer from a disease called nearsightedness. It can be treated with corrective lenses. These will help me see what is real and lend clarity to what might be done., including what I might do.

Nearsightedness, after all, is treatable. Shortsightedness is terminal. That cannot be how this story is meant to end.

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