Monday, February 20, 2017

Tales from Taiwan #20

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Dear sisters,

There's this little boy named Cody* (name changed) that I see every week.  And every week I never know what to expect from this mischievous fireball.   Cody specializes in grand entrances to class and I never know what it'll be...somersaults, an elephant, sirens or a sprint to tackle the teacher (me!).  Then one minute he's happily coloring and the next he's trying to give me a kiss because he put my Set game cards down the toilet.  

If I ever wonder if this is really making a difference or doing any good at all, God uses what happened next to show me that the answer is a definite YES:

Recently after Cody had misbehaved, I wanted to talk to him but he's a fast fella and I couldn't catch him (hey, I run half-marathons, not sprints!).  I prayed about it and then continued on with helping the other kids.  

After our class was over and I was walking through the building, I spotted Cody.  I walked up, knelt down and asked him if I could talk with him for a minute.  To my surprise, he agreed.  After we finished, he said "Teacher, I will try to be better next week!"  I really couldn't believe he said that.  Cody never says things like that.  He gave me a hug and smiled big.  He's changing.  Slowly, ever so slowly but goodness, it's change either way!  In my eyes, that's big.

God keeps working and working on these little hearts and on mine too.  Maybe it's the small changes and small seeds that often lead to the greatest and most beautiful things after all.  Maybe it's the countless hours and the dirty fingers and tight hugs and my card game in the toilet and ABCs mastered and the joy of Jesus that brings this all in to focus.  

No matter where in the world you are, no matter what season of life God has you in, no matter what you're facing today, may God bring it in to focus for you.

After all, it's all about Jesus.

For Him in Taiwan,

Friday, February 17, 2017

Grace and Curiosity in a World of Fear

Have you felt an increased sense of bitterness, fear and chaos in the world since the presidential election really heated up a year ago?

I see it in the news stories, in my social media feed, on bumper stickers and in the midst of regular conversations. Confusion and fear are rampant, especially with the controversy over several of our president's executive orders. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you may fall - or whether you identify with a party at all! - this has dominated the national conversation.

How should we respond?

With grace + curiosity. 

It feels like the president has a lot of power. But in reality? We are the ones shaping our families, communities, and world. We can create a culture of kindness, sensitivity and hospitality in our spheres of influence, whether that's the high school cafeteria, your office, or among the neighbor kids.

There is a lot of fear in our world today. And that fear builds walls. It's so easy to dehumanize someone we don't understand, to make them a two-dimensional caricature of their beliefs. But do we know why they believe that? Are you sure that they even actually believe that?

Grace recognizes that emotions and opinions are valid, even if we disagree with them. Grace embraces the other. And curiosity tears down that us vs. them barrier. It pushes us into conversations and thoughtful questions.

What is their story? Why is this important to them? More importantly, who are they outside of their political leanings?

Fear causes arguments, threats, and desperation. But we don't need to give into that fear. Through Christ, we have the power to offer hope and kindness, grace and curiosity.

As Switchfoot sings, "Is this the world you want? You're making it, every day you're alive."

And you are. You're shaping your world, right now, today.

Political issues are nuanced. There's no black and white. There are only people and stories, hurts and hopes and dreams. And when we listen, ask questions, and love anyway - that's when Jesus shows up.