Letter Life

I smell of aftershave, from the hands that just finished getting ready for the day.  He just HAD to get this done – had to do it. Not because of duty, but because of love and care. his sponsored children are like all other kids – they don’t ring. When a phone rings, you are notified immediately. Sure, sometimes children ring by crying or yelling, but, in general, the caregiver has to make the move – to hug, to direct, to plan, to prepare the meals, to look ahead, guide, train. But those children don’t ring – he needed to make time to get this vital task done.

(Sometimes, tears fall on me, though I can’t always tell who’s letting them fall.)

It’s insightful, being a letter. there’s a connection, like a lamp plugged into a socket. The pen is what connects his soul to my surface – I read his thoughts, hear his musings. I keep telling him to use a pencil so that he can ease, but he frequently disregards my age-old sage advice.

I travel in any and every direction, over land, over ocean, over desert – in all of my travels, I’m inside something that’s inside something that’s inside something else. Who knows how many “inside something”s I go through. It’s good that I don’t have motion sickness.

But I’ve learned from all the letters before me what the goal is – it’s is to be in someone else’s hand. Knowing the landscape, seeing the sea from 30,000 feet, taking note of all of the faces who carry and care for me – those add nothing to my mission (perhaps it’s more of my purpose than my mission?). My purpose is to reach the child with this message from the sponsor. It’s the faces of those children and families that I need to see. What message? It’s different each time. Many times it’s simple news – a loving reminder, like a breeze on a still, hot day reminding one that, despite the doldrums, life continues to move. At times, it’s not good – a farewell, a sad event, even new s of tragedy.

But these letter are always from one point of view – love for that child and family.

In this busy, hi-tech age, there are still limitations around the globe. Low-tech worlds need to stay connected to hi-tech things using low tech means – and that means is me.

I can’t auto-size my font. If I’m made sloppy, or dropped in a puddle, I can’t be fixed. I have misspellings that don’t have a squiggly ling under them. But I can be made and sent and accessed by pretty much anyone, anywhere, anytime. I am simple. I am a letter.

Signing off

My 2018 One Word, er, Phrase

Last year was the first time I decided to have a word for the year. It worked out well. I fully understand if it’s not something that you do; 2017 just seemed like a good year for it. This year seems good, too, as something came up in our family over and over last month as a theme, and I decided to carry it make it my watermark for this year.

Use it up.

We have a lot of good and great things. Over the years we’ve just simply gathered things, kept stuff, accumulated items. I’m not sure why – I know lots of people do it. I think it’s because of a poverty mentality, feeling that “If I throw it away I’ll never have another chance.” There are certainly things to think about when there’s extra or interesting stuff – creative (or craftsy) people never know when their craft will need such-and-such; mechanics never know when they’ll need this fastener or that tool; Sunday school teachers never know (or, rather, always know) when they’ll need to re-use or rejuvenate a former lesson. BTW – our family consists of creative people, always thinking of ways to reuse or repurpose things.

Following up on last year’s word of “Why?,” it flows into “Use It Up.” While our creativity, home education, and parenting call for a lot of resources, by investigating our Why, we realized that we are often just simply hoarding with propriety. We aren’t outwardly hoarders – no trash piled up, no garbage hanging around, no newspapers filling boxes that are stacked to the ceiling. But inwardly we are hoarding – we want our stuff around us to make us feel safe and prosperous.

It’s one of those silent and invisible tricks of the soul – we talk against consumerism and materialism and we demonstrate our spiritual growth by getting rid of stuff (either giving to charity or the landfill), yet, internally, we KNOW that we haven’t arrived yet. We still hold on to our “stuff” security blanket. It just happens that no one sees it.

We have learned Why, and we have gotten rid of a lot of extra (things that were treasures, but are now, to us, trash – which may become someone else’s treasure), but now we have a lot of really useful things. And our struggle now is to use it. We hold on to this-and-that because we don’t want it to go away.

How ridiculous is that? Things are made for us to use – that’s their purpose. And yet, here we are, subjected to them. Why is that? (again, back to Why?)

Things are to be used. People are to be loved. Not vice versa. Things are for our enjoyment and use – and they are temporal. Material is transient, the spiritual is transcendent.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””

Luke 12:15 says, “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

2018 is our year to use up what we’ve been given. Much of life is education of some form – simply growing up to be an adult, learning what food is good to eat, the right exercises for our body type, how to do our best at our job, how to be a better spouse or child…on and on the examples could go. In the process of growing, things need to be used up. Books are to be read (digested?); food needs to be cooked and eaten consistently (ever felt that it’s seems a waste to spend an hour on a meal, only to have it eaten in 5 minutes?); computers need to be used to their fullest and then trashed when you’re done. We just don’t really want to get to that “trashed” or “cooked” or “completed” part – I want stuff to last forever, not having to bother with spending more money and time on something else or the next thing.

But only 2 things last forever – the Word of God, and people. These are the 2 long-lasting entities on which I should spend my time. And in the process, I need to accept that using up temporal resources – time, money, energy – is the way to grow, minister, and live.

(Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash)

Called to Compassion

Jesus said in Matthew 7:12 – “Do to others as you’d have them do to you.”

This doesn’t come with a promise – it’s something the Christian is called to do as part of the Christian life.

While there isn’t any kind of adjective to prepend to Gospel (e.g., Social Gospel), there is, within the Gospel itself the call that those already transformed by it should work to transform the lives of others with the power and resources provided by the Holy Spirit.

There’s more reading below, but here’s a 2-mt. video about Compassion and the joy of singing along with others:

 

One might ask, “Why do I need to spend my money to help someone?” You don’t need to – you are called to help in whatever way you can. There are plenty of ways to help others – prayer, helping clean houses, sending a letter, helping with a garage sale, calling to see how they’re doing…just to name a few that cost no money and don’t take much time.

But in the Kingdom, the general rule is that we are to be ready to spend money to help others.  In Ephesians 4:28, the last part of the verse says, “that they may have something to share with those in need.” In the verse, it’s directly speaking to those who have been thieves, and they need to correct their behavior by earning an honest living. The principle of the verse is that those who make money need to do what they can to have at least a little extra for those in need.

Ayn Rand was a progressive thinker in American economics. An ideology that she highly disliked was charity. Giving with no expectation of return was, to her, completely foreign to her concepts of economics. Ayn Rand was very capitalistic, but not at all Christian. What’s interesting about her and others who espouse those views of economics is that even they know what charity is – giving what you’ve worked for with no hope of getting something in return. When it comes to making and saving money, charity makes no sense. It is very counter-secular.

Christians need to approach charity that way – we give because people need help. Of course, those who follow Christ often “get” something for giving – joy from knowing that we’ve given; lessons we can teach our children. In many cases, we get a tax deduction (though you can opt out of that). In some very small way, we do give as Christ gave…selflessly, so that others may live and draw closer to God. But we don’t get, and shouldn’t expect to get, anything physical in return – we give without thinking, out of any extra we have. Many people around the world probably won’t have any issue with giving to poverty-stricken children, but they may take issue with us giving so that those children can grow to be men and women of Christ.

Sponsoring a child thorough Compassion is charity. We give out of our abundance to help transform the lives of others. And we need to do this selflessly.  We often use our money to enjoy the nice things in life – good food, decent house, a car, family, times with friends, travel. It’s very easy to get into that groove so much so that it becomes a rut. At that point, we tend to ignore the darker side of life on earth – the devastating effects of sin.

Not one of us gets to dodge sin and its effects, so no one can claim that someone else has a perfect life. But those of us in the “have” category tend to dodge some of the more visible effects of the fallen world (effects such as lack of food or lack of clothing) by both buying more than what we need and thinking that others can obtain those things if they just work hard enough.

In moments of reflection, maybe often when confronted by images on TV or the internet, we know that others suffer. We may turn a blind eye or deaf ear to those images and sound bytes, feeling uncomfortable.

Compassion International seeks to bridge the gap between the world of abundance and the world of lack. They do this by giving those who have extra the opportunity to give to those who lack the basics of life. Each individual who enjoys the basics can help those in poverty travel over that bridge to wholeness.

$38/month is what it takes from you. After that, beyond that, what you give is free. You can write letters, you can pray, you can send coloring pages, you can send photos. Sure, you can give birthday and Christmas money, but that’s not required. Out of your abundance of a little more than a dollar a day, you can change a life.

As we see in the Bible, people tend to listen to spiritual salvation after their physical lives have been provided for. The Christian doesn’t give SO THAT people will become Christians; we give because Christ gave all before any of us gave any. But the unspiritual need to see that the Christian cares for them, for what they know – they know only the cares of the body, and they’re inundated with unanswered questions about the spiritual life.

People are physical and spiritual. Many times throughout Scripture we see God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the people of God first showing others the power and love of God by demonstrating God’s ability to provide for the physical. After they see that we care about their troubles, they can proceed to trust Christ with answers to their spiritual questions.

So whether we seek to show love to the non-Christian or the Christian, we do it the same way – we provide the basics of both the physical and spiritual lives of the other.

Christ has provided each Christian with some kind of abundance. Are you sharing that abundance, even non-monetary, with others?

I encourage you to consider sponsoring a child through Compassion. You may not have the money – if not, then you’re not called to sponsor at this point, since God hasn’t given you the means. For those Christians who have a spare $1/day, it’s something to consider. Christ is the One who calls us to give selflessly, and Compassion is one trusted way to do that.