I'm excited mostly because I can't wait to see what God will do when I start to intentionally reduce junk out of my life in order to make more room for him.
My best friend from college, who knows me better than most folks on the planet, just gave me the BEST gift ever: Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis' book. I read (and adore) her blog The Journey. And, of course, I read the whole book in less than a week.
And, fresh out of reading the book, I've been thinking a lot about the whole "God bless America" thing. Is it safe to admit that that phrase bothers me a bit? Well, it does. More than a bit, honestly. Mainly because I think lots of folks are thinking about material things or political things or patriotic things when they say it. I fear we are a country of rich people praying to get richer. Don't get me wrong, I want God to bless the people of America, too, but maybe not in the way we usually think.
We live in a place where it is very easy to take credit for the things we have: we work hard, we have jobs. I can drive myself to the grocery store and pick out exactly what I want. If I don't feel like cooking, I can go out. Or even pick up the phone and have food brought directly to my doorstep. I have the freedom to practice my faith in whatever form that takes without fear. My love of Jesus is not going to get me imprisoned or murdered or banned from my community. I have a roof over my head, clothes for my kids.
Those are all blessings, yes. But maybe they come at a price. Remember my new homeless friend who, when asked what he needed, all he wanted was a Bible in his own language? Have you ever met a Christian in a third-world country? When I met with the Swazis in the community where we worked, their faith isn't shaken because they are hungry or because they have no electricity. In Ethiopia, they are a FAITHFUL people, even though Ethiopia is on the list of the 10 poorest countries in the world. The Christians I met there rely on God every day. And when miracles happen - like enough food for everyone to have a full belly - they can see it comes from God, because it certainly wasn't by their own hands.
And I think about this blog post called Cancer Can Be Awesome I just read from a girl I went to college with: http://www.lilblueboo.com/2012/05/cancer-can-be-awesome.html
She is a few years older than I am and has cancer. Bad cancer, like needing chemo and almost dying kind of cancer. She says that having cancer brought her closer to God, that she trusts him now more than she ever did before she had cancer. She doesn't say it outright in her blog, but I wonder how she would answer the question - if you could go back and not ever have cancer, would do you it?
Maybe the blessing that America is missing is hardship? Maybe what we call "blessings" - all those material things, our safety here, are really keeping us from being close to the heart of God. When we are in the hard places, the dark places, and all we have to turn to is God, and that's when our faith is strengthened. I live somewhere where I could come up with a million reasons why my life is so easy and I can credit it all back to me if I want to. But when a homeless man asks me for a Bible in his language, when I could so easily have brought him shoes, blankets, a bus ticket, anything, I have to take a step back. You may think it's coincidence that I would show up shortly after he arrived at that tent city and that I was the only one who spoke Spanish. But I don't think so. God shows up in moments when we think we're lost. Imagine how my friend felt... I have no idea how long it had been since he had last been able to have a conversation with someone.
All of this is fresh in my mind as I start my seven month fast to get rid of excess in my life. I want to take a step away from all the stuff in my life and see if I can see more clearly.
And in case you are wondering, I have a final list of seven foods. Here we go:
There we go. My friend Meredith challenged me to go meat-free, so I did (I'm not counting the eggs since they aren't going to get the chance to ever be meat). And I really really am trying to cut back on coffee in preparation. Yesterday I only had
Please pray for my husband and my children those first few coffee-free days!