We Can’t Change the World.

When I was a girl, I often read biographies.  Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa stand out the most and I can still remember the shape and smell of those library pages and where I was when the ideas shook my little spirit from side to side, waking me up to the greater world.

biographies

I wanted to live an influential life; one that made an imprint on history, one that affected life after life with help and hope. I wanted to start movements!  It was bright and innocent, those aspirations from this idealist.  It was all-American too.  I was the product of a colonized country, a girl growing up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when the idea that people could “change the world” was just beginning to be written about, books on the subject breeding like rabbits into the 21st century until it spewed out all over the world-wide web.  No one has been immune to the seduction.

But the problem with little-girl aspirations and grown-up seductions is that they can turn into driven and delusional ambitions that are really all about me, and my heart that is deceptive above all things.  Trust me, I know, for bit by bit through the years God’s been hammering mine off, the freedom without them feeling so much better than the weight they brought.

You see, we live in an age that I believe particularly feeds an ego,  all these ideas about changing the world– so beautifully disguised in altruistic motives–with food that fuels every sinner’s inherent desire to be worshipped by being noticed.  Don’t we see it all around us?  So much self-promotion in the name of “helping others”, so much daily “show and tell” that easily becomes comparison and competition, so much of all our “promoting and marketing” as if we are back in Jr. High and needing to impress and prove while we compulsively “follow” the lives of others and report about ours, rather than simply live them.  Really, we are the ones in a ll of history whom invented “selfies”!  Need I elaborate on how much we have lost our sense of dignity and the beauty of our daily lives lived under the gaze of God and not the spotlight we project?  What is this really, all this clamoring to be heard, to be noticed, to be desired, to sell, to have an opinion and voice it?  And our compassion, even it can be a good costume for pride, for the burden we take on can make us believe we could be the Savior.

Do we have to give in?  What if we did not?  Is it possible?

When I think on the saints I have known, the saints I have read, it was those who were intentional about living a quiet, faithful and almost hidden life.  I noticed. They had the power, quite oblivious them, to “change my world”. They were, they are, not involved in noisy efforts to draw attention to themselves.  They keep their eyes on Jesus and when they act and how they act is only because the Spirit within them beckons and they obey. They abide.  They have no desire to sit and count their fruit or fertilize themselves.  It is not their prerogative. And they are at peace, for they have not distorted the Gospel and made it about their striving, but rather their grateful and loving obedience.

If you want to get intelligent about all this, then you could look at writer Andy Crouch and his study on culture-making where he states: “My ability to make small changes in my local world is dwarfed by my dependence on the changes other people make at larger scales of culture.”  Yes.  A whole lot of factors we have no control over.  Though we like to think we can and do, it is the Holy Spirit who first must work in the hearts of man.

But are we a generation of Christians who is more attuned to “postings” and “pins” than the voice of God?  It seems we are because we are the ones posting as much as we can on every social network in every form imaginable, it is us marketing to death, it is us “doing our part so He can do His”(where is that in the Bible?), it is us networking — I forgot, networking is dead now, right? It is us reading the life of Jesus with the paradigm of a 21st century CEO and thinking the Mt. of Olives was esentially His “platform”.  It is us offering commentary on everything from cleaning our toilets to our moonlight walks with our spouses so we can all feel we are human and validate our existence.

And it is all too much, more than we were even made to handle.

Is this making any sense?  Am I getting too snarky and cynical?  Of course, I do not dis-credit the good in our world becoming flat, I just feel we have been too much deceived and lulled, no different and in many ways, no better.

You see, I don’t live in the USA anymore and in me it is doing strange wonders.  I am pondering all this through different lenses.  One begins to see in new ways, one begins to breath in new ways.  I live in a country that was not colonized, but conquered.  Therefore, the thinking is different.  I walk among it all…the slowness, the lingering, even the fatalism. But, I see how life is savored.  It still sucks the marrow out of it, but it does not crush the bones.  You start to see that crawling into heaven worn-out is not particularly that admirable, it just says I was shooting at every good target I saw hoping I would hit something, ensuring my own fruitfulness and thinking that a reflective life was a wasted life and rest was in competition with activity.  What kind of “legacy” does that leave?

It strips you down, this moving to another country where you are really a nobody and how much you can talk and give, in the beginning stages of assimilation, is limited.  It speaks to you in the quietness of the night and tells you that the call to be a missionary, the call to be one who wants to serve and love, the programmed desire to “change this world” is rather a call to ultimate and grueling humility.  It’s a call to brokeness, to anaminity, to simplicity,  to emptying myself, to plodding, to feeling like a Moses, to dying to self so Jesus might be more alive in you and help Himself to your life whenever and however He pleases.  It was never a call to pose as a demigod; it’s a death blow to any remnant of pride or arrogance.  It is brutal and it is wonderful.  It is an invitation to experience just how little I am and how little I can do, but how much He can.  And how much in spite of me and yes, without me, He has this country, this world in His hands.

Imagine.

So, in light of all this, we can stop raising our hands and begging for Him to pick us! please?  Can stop pleading for the teams of this world to pick us, too as if we are in a non-stop popularity contest?  We can rest and we can know we have already been picked and we have already won.  That the world and all that is within it, belongs to Him.  That He wants us just to be still, to lean in and stick close, to be quiet and mind our own business, to do with joy the work that He has established for us. For He is watching and His records are true.

So, I wonder,  I have this dream that we could all shut-up and shut-down for just a day, the same day.  We could all find a tree firmly rooted for so many years without our help, and sit under it.  We could all bow our heads and our knees and worship Him and acknowledge He is the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  And all the change we want to see, all the goodness we want our lives to be, we could pray it out to Him.  We could pace and cry, hurl and yell and give it all to Him until the bowls in heaven full of the saint’s intercessions are so full they tip.  They come back down on us with answers and hope and change we never could bring, were God not God and we not His quieted and confident children, our energy directed in the one place that ushers forth any good change and that clarifies all our ambitions.

The biographies? I am still a sucker for them. They are still good.  So good, I read them to my children.  But I tell them God is writing their biography and no worry, they do and will serve to do more than inspire, they will declare His praises for the ages to come.

And the older I get, that is becoming my only ambition.

Take Your Place.

The plight of women and children here in Mexico and specifically where we live in the Puebla/Cholula area breaks my heart.

Yesterday alone I was approached in my vehicle by 3 women and 4 children (under about the age of 8). One woman was about 8 months pregnant with three beautiful brown snotty-nosed children trailing her through traffic as she sold small handbags and chewing gum. Most likely she has more children at home and her husband is an alcoholic who beats her. Perhaps he has three other wives and their children he does not support. Maybe not, but that is how it goes here for so many women.

Another woman, thin and weary-looking, carried a sleeping child in her arms while she held up a doctor’s script, trying to get donations to purchase medicine.  And yet another woman with heavy eye-liner pounded on my window to hand out an advertisement for the local porn night-club. A boy dressed in pressed slacks and a collared shirt about the age of my 2nd grade son tried to hand me a business card to a local store for a discount on exotic sex toys. The other children were dodging traffic to sell flowers, fly swatters and and fresh-squeezed orange juice.  The children may or may not have a home and a family.  I kept driving, stopping at the red lights and distracting my 4-year old daughter from looking out the window to see rows of Playboy magazine displayed for sale on the grassy median.

Can you imagine your children out in the streets?

Or your pregnant daughter selling gum by knocking on car windows?

Many of these “stories” are not “legit” and others are; there is little way of knowing as you drive through the streets. It has all become our daily norm and most people become immune to the sights, just part of the local landscape.

Recent stats in Puebla state that 283,236 children between the ages of 5 and 17 work. Some 106,295 of them do not attend school. These children and their mamas who are out working in the streets in this urban area and then more so in the rural areas are open targets for human-trafficking.

There is a “hotel” I pass often with high brown metal gates and castle-like towers in which late at night or in the early morning hours van-loads of women and children are brought in, assumed to be forced into slavery. It is a known and accepted fact, even to the police. But nothing is done.

I weep. And sometimes I pull over near it in an inconspicuous place and pray so loud the windows in my Pilot almost rattle. There are times when our prayers are like a soft wind, a weeping prophet or a tenacious bulldog.  This gringo cannot storm the gates, but the armies of heaven can.

It was publicized that Mexico finally passed human-rights laws to protect women and children. Yet, bribes prevail and apathy ensues. The Government of Mexico does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it “says” it is making significant efforts to do so.

I spent time with a woman Monday night whom has worked for the last 20 years with her family in the villages rescuing women and children. She is a mother and a wife, just one year my elder. Her stories were horrific. Last week she had to take a 9-month old baby girl in for a hysterectomy as she had been so badly damaged by rape since her birth.

Yes, go ahead and vomit. I nearly did.

But then get on your knees with me.

Oh church, would you please walk away from all that distracts you and competes for your time and all your pettiness and get into your prayer closets?  Turn off your TVs and movies that mock the beauty of human sexuality and the covenant of marriage. Women, stop flaunting yourselves and wearing bikinis  and see-through blouses in front of your teenage sons. Save it for the bedroom.  Throw out your Victoria Secret magazines.

Call a spade a spade. You are called to live holy lives. Holy. Pure. Intentional. Disciples. Grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that declares you are more sinful than you could ever imagine, yet more loved than you dare to hope.

And you want to change the world you say? Then pray.

I am convinced that history belongs to the intercessors.

This woman I spoke with, begged me with tears in her eyes to pray. I hope to visit her and these rescued women and children (who often deny anything has been done to them though the damage and evidence is obvious) and pray over them, for this obscene mess of sin takes the power of a Savior. It is too big for me and you.

Yes, the more I live and the more I see, the more I am compelled to believe that prayer and living out of a prayerful life is the only real thing that changes the world.

I have been studying more about prayer and I see that God has indicated His desire to release His power in our world when we request it from His throne.   Jesus taught us how to pray when He said: “Our father who is in heaven, holy is Your name.” Then He gave is the “partnership phrase” as key: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God has basically said, “What you ask Me to do as we partner on earth, I’ll answer with My love, My power, My wisdom and in My time with all the force of heaven’s throne engaging whom and what you ask Me to engage.” 1

There is little time to dance around this theologically and debate together about the sovereignty of God and the place of prayer and such. I have spent years trying to work through all of that and I have no pat answers. But what I do know is God works through the prayers of His people and this He has ordained.  I am walking in the prayers of intercessors here and right now before the throne.  Most likely, so are you.

Most Christians I have met do not take this seriously; they prayer-whine or pansy pray or tag on to everything as if a disclaimer, “if it be thy will” or run ahead and make their plans and programs.  I spent my time doing this and then confessed it as sin.

You see, when we pray as individuals and corporately, when we seek His face in Scripture and when we worship, we WILL pray according to His will, for we WILL come to know His heart!   And He will throw up His arms in relief that we have finally ceased to be afraid of presumption.  We have learned to discern His heart and taken Him at His word to come boldly in His presence, in awe at His mighty power and holiness.   Taking up our place as intercessors, we are covered by the blood of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit.

Can I get an “amen”? Let it be so.

Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. He has sent us as His representatives, His redeemed image-bearers to set the captives free. That means we have to take notice of the captives and what it is that binds them. The root is often hopelessness. Which goes far, far back to the garden where the first relationships were broken and the DNA of the sin-seed began to be transmitted.

Only by prayer can those shackles begin to loosen and the Spirit of the Almighty breathe in hope. And if you have one ounce of disdain, a critical spirit, a tinge of unforgiveness, or a belief that your prayers are not effectual then let the Spirit deal with you or your prayers do not come from a heart that speaks truth (Psalm 15).  God cannot hear you when you cherish sin in your heart.

I am pleading with you that you invoke the name of Jesus with me for the women and children here in Puebla/Cholula and the surrounding villages. Through intentional intercession, take your role on the earth-side and God will answer with His works and His wisdom from His heaven-side throne.

Let it never be said that for the sake of the thousands of women and children He so loves that we never took our place this side of heaven.

Redemption is Coming.

My sister, another lover of the nations, called me yesterday just moments after news of the earthquake rocked  Haiti yesterday:  “Death was everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather.”

I wept at this.  And I pulled my children close.  I cannot imagine…

The age-old question of how a loving God could allow such a horrific thing rears its head again.  We cannot help but ask; we cannot help but to be deeply unsettled for we know this is not how it should be.  Nor can we forget that Satan may have had a role here. We attribute God for every calamity that occurs, but the the Word also tells us that Satan can cause natural disasters as well. It’s part of why he is called “The Prince of Power of The Air.”…  The ancient battle continues.

But redemption is coming.

Jesus spoke of the events that would happen prior to his second coming:

“Luke 21:25-28 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

I keep looking up. 

(Follow these missionary blogs in Haiti: http://www.livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/
http://heartlineministries.org/Blog20.aspx  and  http://www.jarodandjennifer.com/blog)