Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Challenge you to run the gauntlet (if you think you have the moxie!)

Here in SEC country there is always a stretch of 3 games for Alabama and Auburn that all of the talking heads and local homers look at the first of the season and say, if we can run the gauntlet of these 3 games… So far this year, Alabama tripped on their 3rd part of their gauntlet run and laid an egg against South Carolina. Auburn is heading into their gauntlet of 3 this coming weekend, if they come out the other side unscathed, it’ll be a truly memorable season in the making.

I recently ran through my own personal gauntlet of faith and came out the other side broken and spiritually wrecked! I challenge my fellow brothers and sisters to run this gauntlet in the near future, if you have the moxie! I referenced these books in some previous posts but want to call them out more specifically here as part of my and Melissa’s spiritual awakening in the last 6 or 7 months.

It began innocently enough when I picked up Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Melissa had picked this up at a recent orphan ministry conference, I had briefly heard Francis’ name in some other online reading and seen a video clip or two of his on YouTube. Chan takes the reader down a path leading to a point of questioning if perhaps as Americanized Christians, we have been missing the proverbial boat as it relates to the Gospel and how Jesus desires us to live out our lives for Him? Something deep in our hearts should be bothered and troubled by the status quo. “It’s crazy if you think about it. The God of the universe – the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.” There are some good examples in here of how “normal” folks have changed their lives to better align with Jesus’ example of living the Gospel. I began to reflect back over the past two or three years of our families’ journey and attempt to process and view our choices, decisions, and events through this optic of what Chan calls a Crazy Love. This was one of the catalysts to us quickly pulling together a trip to Guatemala with my two daughters in less than a 3 week period.

Part two of this literary journey took me to Tom Davis’ book, Red Letters. I picked this up a few days before our trip to Guatemala to read on the plane and while there. The premise of Red Letters is the following: those words written in red, in many Bible versions, are specifically red because Jesus spoke them, maybe we should do what they say. Now there’s a novel idea, Jesus said them, maybe we should do them?! If you don’t want to hear/read about the ravaging effects of HIV AIDS on our 3rd world brothers and sisters and the millions of unsuspecting children, stay away from this one. Davis has a huge heart for the plight of children caught in this terrible, deadly cycle of disease and poverty, and he uses many of their examples and his organization’s work in “doing” the red letters with these people groups. I will have to admit, my own pride and prejudices kept me from fully grasping what Davis was driving at in this one initially. For as long as I can remember, my general outlook on this horrific issue has been one of, you reap what you sew. Being truly honest, I have to admit that when hearing of the plight of AIDS ravaged countries and villages, I would internally say and think, “these people are being judged to earthly damnation for their immoral culture and behavior”. How hypocritical considering I too deserve earthly and eternal damnation as my judgment for my own sins. The syncing of Tom Davis’ message with our time in Guatemala, serving and working with some of “the least of these” was palpable in my heart. I was seriously beginning to question my own understanding and application of Jesus’ words, the ones in red.

The 3rd leg of my book gauntlet took shape the week after we returned from Guatemala. I picked up a copy of Radical by David Platt, a pastor here in the Birmingham area. The first two books were building to a crescendo of emotions and clarity of my spiritual immaturity and lack of understanding of living out the Gospel. Radical, as the name would suggest, pulls no punches and kicked the door down of my emotional/spiritual protective barrier I had so meticulously pieced together over the years. This book peels back the layers and layers of spiritual lies we’ve painted ourselves with over time; you regularly tithe, you support some missionaries, you volunteer for VBS every year, you’ve adopted an orphan, you’re doing just fine. In the end though, what I’ve been doing is keeping a debit and credit tally handy for my spiritual successes, comfort, and more layers of fool heartedness. The statistics in Radical are staggering, sobering, humiliating, and dreadful. Platt challenges those of us who are calling ourselves Christians to action and to do something with these statistics that are really human beings, many of them children simply looking for someone to hold them and comfort them. I haven’t done enough!

Needless to say, just like Alabama, and probably like Auburn over the next three weeks, I did not run this gauntlet unscathed. I am broken and wrecked spiritually and emotionally having run through this trilogy! I’m still processing it all and determining where we will continue to make changes as a family, what we will be investing our $$ and time in, and what it means for my job and other life factors. We have already begun making some changes and openly discussing these issues with our children and why we are doing what we are doing. We’ve since sold our home, begun sponsoring 3 children from Swaziland, jumped onto our church’s mission committee, and are exploring other avenues and Kingdom building opportunities to put our time and resources into.

So, if you are reading this, I challenge you to run this literary gauntlet, in this order, in relatively quick succession. Let me know how you feel coming out the end and what you think.

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