men

I’ve seen countless women answering God’s call to be present within the orphan window around the world. Obvious reasons feed into why women are drawn to orphan care. Each has an innate way they nurture, love and care for others. I’ve even been surprised to see some of these qualities come out in myself. What I really wish is that social expectations for those qualities in men were higher, with much respect for what they already bring to the table.

Realistically, I would trade 5 of these phenomenal, Jesus’ lovin’ women drawn into orphan care for ONE MAN who is passionate about Jesus, willing to surrender himself and step outside his comfort zone to pour into the lives of orphans in this world and those who care for them.

No, ladies, I am not disvaluing your continual presence in the lives of orphans you care about, and it is always a joy digging deep into the mess of relationships with the kids and laugh until I cannot breathe with you. I am emphasizing the importance of men who are not afraid to show they love Jesus in the lives of kids who have been abandoned, and have few examples of the strength found in men that embrace their love for Jesus, and then their love for wife, family and friends.

If you hear one thing let it be that orphan care is not for one gender or the other. It is equal opportunity for all to be active in God’s Kingdom. Let me also clarify that orphan care is all inclusive of many different people in our world. When you define an orphan as someone who has no one to champion them…that busts open a new worldview to orphans being elderly, single moms, widows, foster kids, abandoned kids, kids with no parents, kids with parents in jail and the teenager down the street whose parents have decided they are done parenting.

Orphan care is also not just for those of us who happen to be called beyond the borders of the United States. It is for every believer living in God’s Kingdom who is a neighbor, employee, spouse, parent, sports enthusiast…the list goes on. Orphans surround you on a daily basis. Granted some are living in far more extreme situations than the neighbors of those that are reading this, but to God each orphan is equal to the next. No orphan is loved more by God based on the situation they find themselves.

IMG_1114I’ve had some unique opportunities to see men active in the lives of orphans around the world in the last month. In October, there was a group of 22 that came down to Haiti. Four in that group were women. Do the math…that’s eighteen of the male variety. What I saw in that group was the admiration on the kids’ faces as the men led games. Joy when a kid found themselves on the top of a man’s shoulders. Intense concentration as a man’s hair was braided, then pride in the result. Complete abandon as men held them and ‘hopped’ them through a potato sack race. There is great responsibility when a man steps into the life of an orphan, because that child of God is looking at how they treat the wife and kids they are traveling with, as well as the others on the team. They are watching, because they don’t see it very often.

IMG_5081The kids rarely have men play with them, and each of those interactions is a mark on a young boy or girl that has few models to look to in their life. I love the translators that work with us in Haiti. They have genuine love for the kids they see, and it’s no coincidence that the kids gravitate to these strong men who love Jesus. A few months ago one of the male social workers was at the village when a group pulled in to visit. He had a swarm of older teenage boys hanging around him as they kicked a soccer ball around. Another village we support has mamas and papas who live with the kids. The respect the kids have for the papas who are with them every day is evident. When you look around the village you see a lot of women taking care of the kids, cleaning clothes, cooking meals and male Pastor who is leading them all. What is absent from the daily life of most villages is the presence of good, strong examples of what it looks like to be men who passionately loves Jesus and choose to be present with the kids. There is definite strength in the women surrounding the kids, but God wants to use the presence of men in the kids’ lives to enrich their view of his Kingdom, too. Does it help an orphan connect with God when they see the real life example of what it is to be a man running after his Father’s heart? It was beautiful watching the kids come alive around the men on the team, but equally beautiful watching the men come alive as the kids soaked up the time they were given.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse. [Malachi 4:6]

My hope is that men would inspire men to go deeper into God’s heart for the orphan, but that means time and loyal investment into the messy areas of orphan care. It means making time to walk through life with someone else. It means spending time with other men struggling through a calling to be present in the lives of orphans. It means digging deep into relationship and in the best case scenario…discipleship. And ladies, it means no guilt trips when your man is working through answering his calling. Take pride in that with him and support him, even if that means a fraction of time away from your family. He will be a better dad and husband for answering God’s calling…I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Recently I traveled with a group to visit the kids in Russia that we have known for six years. These are short visits with long-term commitment that God is richly showing up in as we gain shared memories with the kids. Kids and their American friends write letters throughout the year, and once a year we get to physically be present to connect with kids, as well as their caregivers, teachers and the man who directs them all. These relationships have taken years to develop and much patience with God laying a base of trust. It has been a hard road, but worth every messy minute to be a part of what God is doing now.

IMG_5817This year we had four people, two men and 2 women, after several years of only one man traveling on our yearly visit. Much time was spent with these fellas being goofy, leading activities and allowing themselves to simply be present in the moments God put before them. We spent a lot of time in the gym, and there was a constant line of boys challenging the American men to different athletic endeavors. But it wasn’t just about a show of strength, it was about connection. It was about how you act when you lose, and how you represent yourself in a game. It’s about taking opportunities to be on the same team. It is about a young boy looking at an older man and craving to be known by someone that cares about them. It is about the moments in conversation where life is shared. It is about respect. Men crave respect, and it is no different when you are 14 or 55. How a man respects another man in the context of a challenge shows their character, and as far as the character in the lives of the Russian kids…not many take the time to pour into it.

One of the conversations I had with the orphanage director this year was how impressed we were with the amount of college and university students he had this year. He humbly blew off the compliment with a response that they may be getting good grades, but their character is lacking. His example was how he can provide for them and they can get good enough grades to move on, but after that it is up to them while living on their own. I’m praying God will raise up Russians to help pour into his concerns, at the same time I know we will seeking God in ways we can help support him to grow character in the kids. It is God’s Kingdom community working together that dissolves language barriers and country borders.

I am blessed to know many men who are active within the orphan window and passionately love Jesus. These men have incredible character, and love for their families. I get to see every aspect of these men come alive while being present with some incredible kids. It’s in those moments I see God’s Kingdom come to life.

Many of the kids I know names and faces of throughout the world never knew their father. The fathers are the ones that, unfortunately, are more likely to not take responsibility for their families. I also know many men that are taking responsibility, whose character is strong and love for Jesus is written all over their lives. I believe God is calling these men to call out the men who have not taken responsibility for their families. I get that it’s hard. I get that you don’t think it’s your responsibility. I get that it’s easier to pretend that single mom is doing great on her own, but if you are a great father then disciple other men to be great fathers. Imagine an absentee father on his knees asking forgiveness of his children, imagine the grace possible…imagine the picture of a family restored because a community of men came around another man whose relationship with God needed restoration. A Kingdom life restored to God’s glory. Men, it’s time to be men…real men who stand up for what is good, right and just in this world. Hold fathers accountable to being present with their families, and keep their family unit whole. Embrace how God has created you and lead with confidence.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse. [Malachi 4:6]

God is calling men to take seriously the spiritual role as head of their families. God is calling the men who already are to disciple those that are not leading their families. God is calling men to seek the gentleness, playfulness and compassion within the strength he has given them. God is calling men of all backgrounds to be present and pour into the orphans of this world…the real question is which of those men will have enough crazy and courage to say yes.

 

 

 

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resurrection

The entire life of Jesus present with God’s creation led up to his sacrifice for us, not ending there at death, but rising again in resurrection. God sent him, so that his life would redeem his creation.

I think of all the times in the Old Testament that God was angry with his creation, and that anger poured out in so many terrifying ways. I don’t think we like to ponder why God’s anger poured out, because we see too many similarities with how his creation exists today.

Disease. War. Hunger. Pain. Thirst. Sex trafficking. Drugs. Death.

It’s endless, right? This world sucks.

But God tried to help us see another way.

God sent Jesus.

The baby sent to redeem creation.

The man who started his ministry by telling people not to talk about him yet, and to stop praying for show.

The man who laid a foundation of belief, healing and community before giving himself to all.

The man whose stories led back to the Kingdom of God. Every. Time.

The man who was a true rebel preaching about helping prostitutes, murders, sick, hungry and poor.

The man who built community with 12 guys who didn’t have a clue.

The man who poured out his heart in prayer for ALL OF US before he was arrested.

The man who hung on a cross while freely giving salvation to a murderer.

The man.

That’s key.

He was born. He lived as one of us. He died.

And then…he rose.

Resurrection.

Life. Real life. Living in the Kingdom.

This world is not the end. This world isn’t even close to the Kingdom of God.

But it had been, until sin crept into that sacred space.

In my imagination, I see it as a big oil dump over creation. Slick, slimy, reaching into every crevice and so hard to get off. After working on getting oil off for a while, we want to give up…toss in the towel and head home where we can escape that hard, nasty, messy work.

But the oil covers our home…this world where we have the privilege to live out our earthly lives.

The oil needs to come off, and God guarantees he will restore it.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [Revelation 21:3-6]

Collective sigh of relief? All of this is meant to only be for a time, then God makes everything new again?

Yes. Undoubtedly, yes…but…

It dishonors the creator when creation sits and waits while parts of creation are in pain.

It dishonors the man who gave his entire life when we choose to not pay attention to his teachings.

It dishonors the world that has been made slick with oil of our sin when we want to throw in the towel on restoring God’s creation simply because it is too hard.

IMG_3533As we lean into the beauty of Easter, we also need to lean into the sin of the world we live in…it is where Jesus lived and died. Not to make us depressed and discouraged, but to inspire and invigorate the life we have living as people called by Jesus. Jesus didn’t die so we could play it safe and wait for God to come and restore it all. Nothing about Jesus’ life and the example he lived for his disciples shows us to play it safe and wait. It calls us to be daring in how we react to the world around us. It calls us to be restorers. If the Kingdom of God is coming, doesn’t it make sense to work toward the restoration that Kingdom will bring? To set right the wrongs around us? To confess sin and find redemption? To see God’s heart, and joy in the lives that the world says don’t matter? To live a live that is honoring to resurrection?

May you find the heart of God while you seek your answer, because each one of us has a different role in working toward restoring the Kingdom of God and any voice telling you different, is not the voice of the one who created you.

pain

You would hope something as wondrous and miraculous as God’s mission wouldn’t bring hurt, pain or anger. But when you have people that are serving from a place of passion…our humanness enters in, and all hell breaks loose.

It’s ugly.

It’s painful.

It hurts.

But what can we really expect when we are dealing with sin? Because it we were all serving from the perspective of putting God and others before ourselves…there wouldn’t be pain in mission work. And at what point did we try to fool ourselves into thinking sin can bring about characteristics of God?

So how do we, as folks created by God, set ourselves aside and serve with love, compassion and kindness?

Seek God’s heart. There is a great quote from Bob Pierce that always gets thrown around, and has been a prayer of mine for well over 3 years. ‘Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.’ Imagine what the world would look like if this were truly the prayer of people who love Jesus, and choose to follow him. I know it has changed me.

Embrace your emotions. It is what makes you so passionate about those you are serving, and where you are serving. Those emotions are God-given to ignite you to action where God has called you. It is exactly what makes a person feel connected to you, because you are invested in who they are as people, not what they are as projects. It’s called relationship. And God has created us to be in those relationships with others. And the beautiful thing is when we get it right on our end, it reflects our relationship with God for others.

Risk. Did I lose you? Does risk intimidate you? Does it outright scare you? It should, because when you risk your heart to work towards God’s Kingdom restored…all bets are off. Period.

Be courageous in stillness.  Afraid of silence? Be ready to accept it in abundance, because the only true thing that can heal your pain is the loving, compassionate Father who sent his son to die on a cross to wipe away the bad you have done in our world. And that takes time…to not run away from the quiet in an effort to increase the work-a-holic in you…and to embrace the quiet stillness of God’s balm.

Grace. At times I hate forgiveness, but the only time I hate forgiveness is when I have to give it to others…not when I am accepting it from Christ. Horrible, right? But it’s 100% true. How can we truly accept what Christ gave up for us if we are unwilling to bestow that gift on others? It is as if we are saying, ‘You see, Jesus. I don’t really think what you did was all that great.’ We are completely negating His death on the cross if we hold grudges…seek retribution…deny others grace. I completely admit to being a failure in this area. But I also admit, God is not finished growing my spiritual heart. I just don’t really like it…perhaps God would make my memory shorter so this would be easier.

Pain is beautiful in the shadow of our God.

But unless we are prepared to see it that way, we keep holding onto it in all of its black, crusty glory. Nasty, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Everyone who seeks to serve God struggles with pain in whatever way it manifests. The true test of a servant is what they are willing to do with that pain.