Go and Be Comfortable.

Yesterday, we spent the day doing the usual school routine and as I wound down for the afternoon, I could hear from the kitchen table that our neighbor was on his mower, cutting his grass.  I reminded myself I would probably need to do the same thing soon and carried on.  As early afternoon turned to late afternoon, I piled the six kids into the van to head for the soccer fields for back-to-back games for the three older kids.

That's when I noticed the mangled wiffle ball in the middle of our driveway.

At first, I thought, "Oh, he must have hit that with the mower and it landed in our yard."

Upon further inspection, however, there was not a single blade of cut grass anywhere on the driveway.  That chunked-up wiffle ball had been purposely placed there.

Apparently, he'd hit a wiffle ball on his mower and assumed it was ours.  I guess that seems reasonable.  We do have six kids and our driveway abuts his yard.  And sometimes, things roll down the natural elevation change into his yard.

The thing is, though, we don't even own any wiffle balls.  (We're a soccer/basketball family.)

So, my panties got twisted in a hurry.  Who does this guy think he is?!  He hits a wiffle ball with his mower, walks back to it, picks it up, assumes it ours to deal with, and tosses it in our driveway.  The NERVE!  It would have taken no more effort to throw it in his own trashcan or even our trashcan that was less than ten feet from the piece of junk's placement on our driveway.

Grumble, grumble, angry text messages to complain about it some more, grumble, grumble.  Consider passive-aggressive counter move of tossing it back into his yard.

My heart condition is the best.  (Can't you tell?)

Now let's rewind a few nights ago to when I was sitting around the house after finishing a Jen Hatmaker video series called "Pulling the Thread" after which I felt empowered to view my mission field as right where I'm planted.  It seems more genuine, more noble, somehow, to hop on a plane for the remotest areas of the world and tell others about Jesus, but is it really less noble or even less necessary to do the exact same thing right here in my home town?  Overseas, short-term missions are awesome.  The missionaries who serve overseas are amazing, and deserve our unrelenting support, but does that mean I need to beat myself up about not being able to go right now or yet?

I contend that it does not.

You see, I might be living in a prosperous, not-very-diverse area, but these middle-class/upper-middle-class white people have souls that need Jesus every bit as much.

It's true.  Don't be mad.

I don't pretend to know the heart condition of my neighbor.  Maybe he was just doing what he thought was the neighborly thing to do - he returned what he assumed to be our missing ball.

The point is, I have neighbors whose heart conditions I don't know.  I encounter people every single day in whose lives I can make a difference in some small or large way.  But I have to see them.  I have to encounter them.  I have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

I like my home.  I'm a homebody, and if it weren't for my adventurous husband dragging me out of my comfort zone on epic cross-country "field trips," I would probably never leave my kitchen table, or the familiar territory of the local Aldi, our home church, and the public library.  I don't think it's inherently wrong to like being home or to like familiarity, but I don't think it's okay to remain there and limit ourselves.  There's so much more to see and experience in this world, in our country, and even (perhaps, especially) in our home towns (where we spend the majority of our lives) when we dare to leave our own comfortable corner of it.  It's hard to think about others and recognize how others might view the world if everyone we see looks and thinks like us.

I just finished reading Kristen Welch's Raising Grateful Kids in and Entitled World and a few things have jabbed me like a knife.
Being others-oriented is about as countercultural as it gets.  Self-centeredness is so prevalent in our world that we don't even recognize it anymore.  We are a society of the entitled; we think we deserve whatever we have - and then some.  
Society screams me, and Jesus scream them.  Becoming others-oriented is not a matter of flipping a switch; it's a lifestyle you cultivate. 
I have a knack for making the simplest things complicated.  I have two purposes for my time here on this earth - to love God and to love others.  If my relationship with Facebook is any sort of indication of my spiritual condition, I'm failing pretty miserably at both of those.  Instead of realizing my worth and value as a child of God, I seek "likes" on the internet.  Instead of loving others, I promote myself.  Instead of leaving the familiarity of home where I might have to feel awkward or uncomfortable I consider myself first, and others second.  This flies in the face of the Gospel.

So what does that mean?  I'm grateful for grace, thankful I'm forgiven, and I'm working towards looking even slightly more like Jesus each day.  It means I'm terrified to do so, but praying that God will make me uncomfortable.  I'm actively seeking ways to serve others instead of hiding behind my selfish tendencies.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.  And above all of these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Colossians 3:12-14

Jesus didn't tell us to Go and be comfortable. He said to Go and make disciples.  He said it would be hard.  Guaranteed.  Jesus lived a life of discomfort, culminated by the ultimate pain and agony - the recipient of all of God's wrath for my own sin.  The very least I can do is take a first step outside of my comfort zone and make myself second.  If only I didn't have that darn inherent sin nature to make this all about me, and less about Him.  What can I say?  I'm a MAJOR work in progress.


Broken Mint Candy

Last week the kids and I returned from a trek to Maryland, where I hoped to help my parents begin what will be the long process of cleaning out my late great aunt's home.  It's no secret that she liked to hold on to things longer than most, and that she kept many things most people would consider to be trash.  As a child of the depression, she saved and stored and kept.  I think that generation learned through living with nothing to collect and store up things long after collecting and storing was no longer a necessity, I suppose as an insurance policy.  Working through the kitchen mainly disposing of expired food, I came across one particularly noteworthy item that really stuck with me.

It's a prescription pill bottle.  Filled with pieces of broken peppermint candies.

At first I laughed.  "That's insane!" I thought.  And really, maybe it was.



I thought about that generation of men and women.  These are the men and women born in the teens and twenties.  These are the same men and women whose childhoods took place during the bleakness of the Great Depression.  These are the men and women who watched the entire world go to war and they either served in the armed forces or pitched in at home, but there was no opting out.  They were brave, savvy, and resourceful.

They had very little, so they learned to treasure everything.  Even broken mint pieces.  (She might have used those someday!)

How far have we come from this mindset?

Now, we have everything, and yet we treasure practically nothing.

I'm not suggesting we should start bottling our broken mint candies.  But I am suggesting that we pause for 0.2 seconds every once in a while and recognize the blessings staring us in the face.

Jon Acuff said on Facebook a couple of years ago:
If my grandfather, who fought in a tank in WWII, was alive I'd tell him what a hassle it is when a website makes you scroll a lot.
It's the fact that we totally ignore just how easy we have it.  We literally have the entire world at our fingertips.  And, what do we do?  We find ways to complain about it.

My own father once told me:
As my old friend from Bethlehem Steel used to say, if the Russians knew what kind of shape we're in they'd attack today.
And that's funny, except, it's not.  Because, by and large, my generation doesn't know what it is to be scared, or to struggle, or to think outside the box.  My generation is used to being served on a silver platter.  Only, we have grown tired of the silver platter and we're hoping to upgrade to platinum on someone else's dime, forgetting all the while that ceramic is more durable, cost-effective, and practical.

Folks, we've got it made.  And for some reason, we're constantly dissatisfied.  Let's not be.  The next time we're tempted to whine about something ridiculous - like, Saturday when my coffee tipped over at the kids' soccer fields and I declared something like, "Well, this has been a complete waste of a day!" - let's stop, take a deep breath, and remember -

If this is the worst thing that happens today, I'm doing alright.

Let's find things to treasure.  Smile at the perfect baby handprint on the glass.  Notice the sun rays peeking through the storm clouds.  Watch as a flock of birds flies through the sky with perfectly coordinated movements.  Thank the person with the thankless job who serves you every day.

Treasure all of it.  Even the broken mint candy.

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