Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Books Make Me Barf

Appetizing, huh?  Over the past two weeks I've been stuffing my brain with some heavy books and, quite frankly, it's a mess in there.  Because this blog gives me a place to chronicle what's happening in our lives, I want to attempt to highlight just a bit of what is moving my heart these days.

Do you ever have that insatiable appetite to gobble up everything you can about a restless stirring.  That's where I am.

It's hard to pinpoint when it started, but these past few weeks kicked off with reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  (She "fasted" from seven areas of "excess"--taking on one "excess" each month.)  Actually, back in the late fall when I watched the promo for the book, I knew it was going to scratch some sort of internal itch.  Just the preview was all that I needed to start taking on recycling with gusto (no more cardboard in my garbage can), to look even more closely at food labels and to scrutinize even more of what we're doing with our resources (and where what we consume comes from).  My overall take-away was that I have been blessed with MUCH--what am I going to do with it? 

I loved 7.  But there was one part when I had to put it down and walk away.  It was the part when she talked about how much money we have within the church.  And how just a portion of that could help stop some of the most horrible effects of poverty.  But it's being used to build bigger buildings and better programs and coffee bars, etc.  So not cool.  Actually, it's appalling.

...I don't want to be a part of that.

Then I picked up Donald Miller's A Million Miles In A Thousand Years.  I know that I have just this one life to live and I want to make the most of it.  That's really what his book was so much about--how our lives are a story that we get to write. What an opportunity!

Okay, so I want to live a "rich" story making the most with what I have been given.  What does that look like?  How do you do that?

In 7, Jen mentioned her previous book, Interrupted, the story of how her family followed the call to make a difference to the people in need in Austin.  I read about their journey to trust God as they left everything familiar and easy to start over from nothing, starting with a clear call to reach the poor and hungry. 

Take away--God is moving hearts to reach out to those in need.  Where do I fit into that?

Not sure what to read next, I glanced through my Kindle selection and saw that a year ago I had started Francis Chan's Forgotten God--time to clear the unfinished clutter on my list and read it. 

At the end of the book he talks just a little bit about how hearing about child sex slavery completely burdened his heart.  How when he thought of how young the girls were he could only imagine what he would do if it were his children.  How he would do anything to make it stop.

I paused.  Woah...little girls like my girls?  No.  This is not okay.

That week, on a whim, I followed a link on Facebook to awesome company that sells shirts (and hoodies) and donates $7 of the purchase to a new cause each week.   It sounded intriguing.  The cause that week happened to be Sex Slave Trade.  I still didn't know much about it, but I watched the video for the Somaly Mam Foundation--and I was horrified--horrified--by ages of the girls.  4 or 5.  No!

Later in the week I came upon a recent podcast about, again, Sex Slave Trade.  My stomach churned.  I listened. 

Then, I read the book, Passport Through Darkness.  And I felt even more sick.  The stuff I was reading was not some made-up horror story--it is real life.  Real life as in life today.  Not fifty or even twenty years ago--No, stuff happening within the past few years of my life.  I had no idea.

Literally, half-way through the book I had to escape.  I gathered everyone into the van and we went to Dunkin Donuts before dinner and we ate donuts.  I wanted to make the sick feeling go away.

Kimberly Smith tells her story of working primarily with women and children in Sudan.  She writes about terrible acts that I can only barely speak in a whisper and about how no one cared to stand up for what was right. 

I saw myself in her book--the story of a mom with three young children--my children's ages--whose village was attacked--how they fled on foot.  How she watched all of her children die horrible deaths in the pillage.  I saw J--the father who prayed that he wouldn't be at work when the attackers came to his village.  How he was at home when the enemy came--but that he still couldn't protect his wife, children or neighbors from unspeakable deaths.

Poverty and it's effects are beyond heartbreaking.  But this--what I am reading and hearing and seeing--it is human suffering born of purposeful, direct acts of evil.  I'm having a hard time comprehending it.

On top of that she shares how many children in just one community were eaten by wild animals (278 in 10 months!).  Eaten alive.  I can not process this.  How is this okay?  Why isn't more being done?

Then she talks about how when she comes home to the States she shares what she's been experiencing with Churches--and too many of them tell her that it's too hard to listen to and they aren't interested in making people feel bad. 

What does that mean?  What does that say about us?

And then I realized that I was one of those people.  I mean, there is so much hard stuff in the world--can I really stand to hear another sad thing?  I have seen the links on Facebook and I haven't clicked on them.  Ugh...  I don't want to be that way.

This is the world we live in.  It's the place where we get to use our gifts and talents and time and resources to make a difference.  If I don't listen, then why should anyone?

So, my head is a whirling mess of jumbled up priorities and sadness and hope and a bunch of other stuff.

Crud.  There are questions like--Should I buy this really nice, pricey shirt that blows the budget or buy this inexpensive shirt that might profit and encourage slave labor?  Mix that in with if children are being sold into sex slavery as nearly toddlers while others are being eaten by animals, and if neighbors are killing neighbors and no one is making it stop--where does that leave me in my little world where my biggest worries are if my kids have the right healthy snacks to eat?  I can't seem to reconcile the differences.

It's a mess that's pushing me back to the basics.

For the first time ever, I am going to try to read through the Bible in a year (with friends).  If I really believe that there is more to this world than I can see with my eyes--that there is a Creator who made us to know and love Him--a God who does not want us to be orphaned, hungry and hurt beyond repair--a God who made each one of us special--then a really good place to start would be to read His whole Book. 

And these accounts of children dying and being sold into slavery and being abandoned are making me hold my little people even closer.  I am so very aware that the simple act of holding their hands is an extravagant blessing.  I am so thankful for them and I am holding them tight.

I know I can not change the whole world.  But I (a jumbled mess) can play a part in it.  Starting right where I am..

(I'm also reading Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide and The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine.)


  1. oh, so blessed to have your heart in tune with mine!!!! Starting Somaly mam's book tomorrow on the plane!

  2. Oh, friend--I feel ya! There are SO many things/decisions in life that are hard to reconcile, hard to figure out where I fit in, what God wants ME to do about it, etc. Praying with you...