A Guide to Lamenting

by Mandi Hart

Until recently, I never truly understood lamenting. This invitation to honesty is, in fact, God’s gift to us, and it reminds us that we are human. It is a beautiful way to express our suffering, cry for help or at injustice and lean into trusting God. Most often, as humans, we try to run away from our pain. “It’s much better to avoid my pain, that’s my natural tendency,” remarked a friend the other day.

We know that there is a book in the Bible called Lamentations, and over a third of the Psalms are laments. Consider that lamenting is a verbal expression of our regret, disappointment, sadness or grief. It’s a way of mourning and expressing sorrow. But, more than that, lamenting gives us the language for living between the poles of hard life or suffering and trusting in God.

Lamenting is us coming to a place of brutal honesty. We don’t pray what we think we should say, but at that moment, we remove the outer layers and speak what we honestly feel. For some, that isn’t easy. But try it out. It might set you on a journey of freedom and healing.

We need the courage to lament. Why do I say that? Well, many of us don’t like being honest about our pain or express the injustices we see in our lives or that of our community. We cover it up because we have the fear of being exposed or making a mistake. We remain hidden and don’t express what we truly feel or want to say.

Lamenting is like a tightrope, but it can also be a lifeline. For too often, we deny our pain or worse, get stuck in that place of sorrow.

I once heard a story of a woman who, on her wedding day, found out that her husband died on his way to the church. Overcome with grief; this woman remained in her wedding dress in her house, decorated for the festive day. She never, ever really lived. Now, I can’t verify this story, but it illustrates how unresolved grief can lock us in. If we never lament or grieve well, we cannot mend well.

In the words of Richard Rohr, “If you do not transform your pain, you will transmit it.” When we lament, we can transform our pain and heal. Lamenting has the potential to carry us through this time of global suffering and uncertainty.

 

The outline of a Lament

Generally, a lament takes a form. This is helpful to shape our prayers when we cry out to God is this way. I’m not at an expert in this and am learning along with you, but I have found the following guide helpful:

1. Turn to God. Here, you turn to God. You can remember His faithfulness in the past.

2. Bring your protest. At this point, you bring your groaning or complaint to God. Pain is pain, and it is here that you express it, without pretense. You are raw and honest. You tell God what you are angry about – for yourself, your family, community or globally. Don’t hold back.

3. Ask boldly for help. After you’ve shared the deep groaning of your heart, you begin to petition. You ask God for help. Hebrews 4:16 urges us to do so with words: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

4. Choose to trust. After you’ve asked God for help, you return to praise and that place of trusting Him to act, comfort, restore or bring peace.

Just this morning, I led a prayer meeting via Zoom (as we do these days) and spent 30 minutes lamenting as a group. It was one of the most intense prayer times I’ve had recently. One man remarked that he is learning that prayer doesn’t have to be boring. It was a fresh experience and so transparently real.

Other ways to express what’s going on deep inside

Firstly, spend time reading the Psalms. Examples of laments are in Psalm 10, 13, 22, 25, 60,73, 77, 79, 80 and 90. There are many more, but this is a start. Familiarize yourself with the Psalmist’s honest expressions and ways of lamenting. Start speaking out your own laments.

Secondly, you can lament through journaling. Try writing out your cries to God.

Thirdly, lament through tears and groans. Another way of saying it could be: feel your feelings and turn them to prayer.

Fourth, create a song around lamenting. Sing your prayers or give expression through your music.

Fifth, creativity is there for you to embrace. Consider doing a piece of artwork to express your lament or if you’re wired like me, go for a run and pray on the move.

We do not find growth in comfort. It comes when we feel pain, hardship, endure to the end, push and heal. Growth comes in the least likely of places. My prayer for you today is this:

May you find the courage to lament.

May you find healing in expressing your deepest sorrows.

And may you know the grace of the invitation to honesty today and always. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mandi Hart is the author of Parenting with Courage, along with her latest release, Courage in the Fire: Overcoming a fear-driven life. Mandi and her husband led All Nations Cape Town (a missions and church planting organisation) for several years. She is a certified counsellor and coach who speaks weekly on the radio on courageous living and fearless parenting. She carries the nations in her heart and is involved in the 24/7 prayer movement. She currently lives in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she is involved in outreach and the mentoring and raising of leaders. Mandi loves running the trails amongst the vineyards and enjoys a good cup of coffee with her Scottish Terriers nearby. You can find her online at mandihart.net.

What you can learn from “Green Eggs and Ham”

If you’ve read Green Eggs and Ham by children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss, you might have found yourself sucked in by the gravitational pull of the repetitive story.  For those not familiar with the book no worries, I can catch you up to speed. Sam-I-Am (the main character) wants the other character who is never named but looks like a Grumpy Old Man to try green eggs and ham. Sam-I-Am asks the Grumpy Old Man over and over if he would be willing to try green eggs; and when he is refused by the Grumpy old man he offers different options.

For instance:

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse? 

I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere. 

You can read the entire book here; but if you can, get the book and enjoy the colorful illustrations. Finally, in the middle of the story the exasperated Grumpy Old Man says: 

Sam! If you let me be,
I will try them. You will see. 

He tries them and . . . 

Say! I like green eggs and ham! 
I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!

He joyfully repeats all of the suggestions that Sam had made before, agreeing that he would indeed eat green eggs and ham:

And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat.

You get the picture. No longer grumpy, the Old Man ends the story:

I do so like green eggs and ham!
Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-Am.

Last week I read a bit of trivia about this book that had me look at it in a new way and wonder what we could learn from this unlikely teacher.

1. The challenge and power of limits

Green Eggs and Ham is the result of a bet between Dr. Seuss and his editor. Green Eggs and Ham uses only 50 different words. Seuss’s editor bet him after The Cat in the Hat, which used 225 words, that he couldn’t write a book using fewer.

Green Eggs and Ham went on to become one of his most popular books and only uses 50 words. Though a fun fact, let’s not downplay the challenge of telling a story that makes sense within the limits. Right now the world over it seems that “restrictions” is the name of the game. Visas aren’t being issued or are glacially slow in being issued. The way that you have typically gone about life and sharing the Good News have been radically altered and you may not even be in the same country as those you came to serve. Or you’re in the same country but without easy access to people.

It’s tempting to look at the limit and see what can’t be, instead of to look at what is possible. Imagine if the final version of Green Eggs and Ham came in at 52 words? No go. Dr. Seuss had to find a way to cut extra two words. Because he was willing to invest the time in crafting and recrafting the story, the world now has this story that can be told for years to come. Though your challenges and limits are real (and annoying and heart breaking), you can still “tell a story.”

2. Life is repetitive

Without too much effort, by the end of the story, the reader could almost retell it without effort. Why? Because the story is so annoyingly repetitive! First the bad news, life on the field isn’t nearly as non-stop-exciting as many “back home” think. Instead, it can be mind numbingly repetitive. Laundry, food prep, emails, time in traffic. 

But now for the good news . . . repetition is a tool of memorization. As we present the Good News, disciple people, and walk with them as they join in sharing, you get to repeat the good news again and again. When Sam-I-Am got his first no from the Grumpy Old Man when he asked him “Would you like green eggs and ham?” he didn’t let every subsequent no get stop him. Instead, he thought of another situation (with a goat or on a boat) that maybe, just maybe the Grumpy Old Man would be willing to try.

Not in an obnoxious YOU MUST LISTEN way, but in a I’m never going to tire of pointing you to the source of life way, embrace the repetitive nature of this story.

3. Change is Possible

While there is no reason to read into a story what isn’t there, it is fun to make connections. I don’t think Green Eggs and Ham is a secretly Christian book. I am sure that Sam got his name because it creates a great beat when reading: 

Sam-I-Am

If this were a song, that’s a beat you can dance too!

But I also love truth woven into a story. Sam never wearied of asking the Grumpy Old Man if he would try green eggs and ham because he knew, he knew, he knew that if Grumpy would try them, he would love them and wouldn’t be so grumpy. The great I AM also never wearies of asking Grumpy, Sad, Betrayed, Lonely, Angry, Depressed people to try a new way of living because he knows that it’s the only way to truly live. In the end, the Old Man is actually a New Man, full of hope, joy, and gratitude.

Maybe today you don’t need another zoom call or a deep study. Maybe what you need is Green Eggs and Ham.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouison Unsplash

Don’t Lose Heart

photo credit

These are days of upheaval, vulnerability for ourselves and those we love all over the world, repatriating or extended leaves. It can be difficult to feel God’s love in action for ourselves and those who we see who need it most.

These are days of a wondering begging to be voiced, ‘Where are you, God?’ Or “Do you really intimately care about this world?”

As I was reading Zechariah 8, one of those hopeful, desire-of-your-heart visions the prophets of the Bible sometimes get to share, it seemed like fresh rain on dry and weary land. It offered me great hope.

And I knew this message was for you, my expat friend, who loves people and places so much, it pulses with every beat of your heart. Who doesn’t know where your ‘safe place’ is right now. Who longs for days of healing and restoration this world over.

(all quotes are from the Message paraphrase of the Bible, unless noted otherwise)

Zechariah 8: 1-2

“A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

I am zealous for Zion–I care! I am angry about Zion–I’m involved!” (emphasis mine)

Sometimes, especially amid global crisis and a world rife with tension, it can be easy to believe God isn’t intimate with the affairs of the people and places we love. Yet, He, the GOD-of-Angel-Armies, the strong one, is saying that He is. It is our imperative to anchor deeper and deeper into this and not forget.

Zechariah 8:3

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“I’ve come back to Zion, I’ve moved back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s New names will be Truth City, and Mountain of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.”

Wherever we are, we are Zion and God is coming back to us. We are being raised up in Truth as the Mountain of our God. He is building His Kingdom and the gates of Hell itself will not prevail against her!

Zechariah 8:6

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“Do the problems of returning and rebuilding by just a few survivors seem too much? But is anything too much for me? Not if I have my say.”

This speaks to a central lie with which the Enemy taunts those God would use. Are we too few? Can God really move in powerful ways when we feel alone? Here, He is staking His words on who He is, not who we are or the circumstances we are in. And friends, this stands true when you are far physically from a place and people you love and are left to fight as an intercessor. Nothing can thwart His ultimate will for His people.

Zechariah 8: 9-12

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies

“Get a grip on things. Hold tight. you who are listening to what I say through the preaching of the prophets…We’ve come through a hard time…But things have changed.

Sowing and harvesting will resume,

Vines will grow grapes,

Gardens will flourish,

Dew and rain will make everything green.

Don’t lose heart. This is what I hear again and again for YOU today. God’s church remains in the world and while She does, there is a mission to accomplish. And, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies has put all of Himself into it.

I think of another chapter 8:

“If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing Himself to the worst by sending His own Son, is there anything else He wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” Romans 8:32

These are days which are testing us, our own hope in our own lives. How much more do they test our hope for the people and places we love?

Yet, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Again and again He speaks after disaster will come times of renewal, gathering, fulfillment of promise. And One Day, dare I say ‘soon, so soon’ will come the ultimate gathering of all of God’s people through all time and history, from every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation. It is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Until the day we are face to face, when either we are called home or meet the Lord upon His return, beloved of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, don’t lose heart.

Justice, Race, George Floyd, and Cross Cultural Service

Why missionaries, humanitarians, and anyone working cross culturally needs to care about racial justice.

I posted this at Do Good Better on June 1. So this is a partial repost. In that post, there is a YouTube video and several other links to really important articles. The last link shared there talks about why it matters that we care about this issue, even if we don’t live in the USA.

On June 8, I posted again about: How are international development workers, humanitarians, and missionaries uniquely complicit in historical and modern-day racial injustice? Are they uniquely positioned to combat it?

Please also read and engage with those articles shared as well.

A week ago, I watched a black man die under the knee of a white police officer. Previously I’d listened to the story of a black woman shot in her own home. The week before that my daughter and I joined the run to remember a black man shot while jogging. I watched the Instagram video of a white woman threatening a black man. 

I have been watching my city, and then my country, burn all weekend long. This has not come out of nowhere. There is a reason people are angry and grieving.

We must deal with issues of race and by “deal with,” I don’t mean Tweet about or offer “prayers and thoughts” about. And I don’t mean for this week, while it is the hot topic in the news. I mean we should be doing this already and we need to continue doing the work. Sometimes we can share our thoughts and the books that have helped and other times we will need to be silent, go inward, not advertise, let others be heard.

In The Missionary Podcast newsletters at Do Good Better (Not Just For Missionaries and Who Gets To Tell The Stories), I’ve raised the topic of the white savior complex through the story of Renee Bach in Uganda, but race problems are not just about savior complexes. This is about history and economics, justice and complicity. It is about violence and judgment, policing and infrastructure. Racial complexities occur in the countries we’ve left and in the countries in which we work.

We cannot bury our head in the sand and say, “I don’t live there.” Or, “I’m not local here.” These are dangerously simple excuses that allow expatriates to remain silent and complicit. They are perilously comparable to the, “but I never owned slaves,” or, “but I have friends of color,” statements.

We must start with being educated on racism and issues of justice over the course of history in the countries we come from. We must listen empathetically and be moved to action in the cultures we come from. We are better equipped both to understand and to respond to these problems where we come from and if we can’t or don’t engage there, we won’t be equipped to face the problems with wisdom, humility, and perspective in the countries where we serve.

These are issues everywhere and we enter the systems everywhere we go. And, we bring ourselves with us everywhere; we bring all our prejudices, assumptions, judgments, ignorance, and history. We have to be aggressive in addressing it no matter where we live and work.

It would be the epitome of naivete to pretend that we are talking about how to Do Good Better and to not address current events.

In the comments, I’d love for readers to share your go-to resources, people you follow, websites, etc.

As a uniquely global group, I think that kind of roundup will be quite useful. I have a lot to learn about racial dynamics in other parts of the world.

Love Thy Neighbour (unless they’re obnoxious)

You know the good neighbour story Jesus tells about the guy robbed, beaten and left half dead on the side of the road? All these religious types walk on by and he’s eventually helped by an unlikely traveler.

Me? Oh you bet I’d stop. It’s like those YouTube videos that pop up in my newsfeed every so often. Some vagrant looking woman sitting alone and crying on a park bench. All these people just pass by and I’m watching like, What’s the matter with you people? She needs help! And finally some guy comes along and asks what’s wrong. I’d be that guy. I’d help.

But I’ve never passed a woman crying on a park bench, or an injured man on the side of the road.

Reality goes like this…

A few years back we had upstairs neighbours who used to throw things at each other. We’d hear them stomping around and pushing over furniture all in a rage. They did everything exceptionally loud – watched tv, got drunk, had sex. I was all Halleluiah!s the day they had a fight on the lawn and she was hauled off to jail.

Another neighbour with a brain injury told me her husband only kept her around for the disability payments. She’d do her best to stop me and deliver the same 20 minute monologue every single day: You know I’ve only got two thirds of my brain, stop me if I’ve told this story before, but I never much liked religious people. Bunch of hypocritical… I’d peek out the front door to make sure the coast was clear before darting to the community mailboxes.

A notoriously tetchy neighbour gave me the finger and yelled, “Get the %&$# out the way!” when she had to slow her car to pass me around a tight corner. I shot back in the exaggerated bible belt voice I save for occasions like these, “Always nice to see you! God bless!” Surely I could kill her with passive aggressive kindness.

Here recently, I watched as my hot tempered neighbours silently wheeled stolen motorcycles through their gate and hid them in the back. With the system here, there was nothing I could do about it. I somehow managed to change my squinty eyes death stare to a tight lipped smile the next time I saw them.

Then there’s the older kids at the end of our street. They made my son cry. I roared like mad woman and sent them scattering. Mess with my child and things will get fierce.

Jesus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Oh, I do love my neighbours. Lots of neighbours. Just not these. But since these are only a few compared to the lots of neighbours I love, I figure it balances out.  

Heck, I’m good at loving neighbours. I taught years of Sunday school, was a middle school youth group leader, and co-led a bible studies for teen girls. None of that is for the faint of heart.

Before I moved overseas, I spent time with teenagers every week at a therapeutic group home. Most of them are not that lovable. Three summers in a row I spent a week at a camp for refugee kids. A bunch of them aren’t that lovable either.

Love my neighbours? I moved to the literal other side of the world to support my husband as he flies out to remote villages. He picks up sick people that would otherwise die and transports missionaries who would have to hike for days through dangerous jungle terrain.

I’d say I’m actually pretty darn good at loving my neighbours, thank you very much.

Jesus: “This is what God does. He gives his best –the sun to warm and the rain to nourish– to everyone, regardless: good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.”

Yeah but that’s God, so of course he has enough love for everyone. It comes with the territory. I’ve got love for most everyone, a few obnoxious cases aside.

Jesus: “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

///Awkward silence///

The way God lives towards me? So it’s not just about an old bible story, set up YouTube videos, and the do good projects I pick?

Oh man. That changes things.

***

The good neighbour (good Samaritan) story is found in Luke 10:30-37. The Jesus quotes are taken from Matthew 5 & 22, The Message and the New American Standard

This post originally published on www.namasayamommy.com

Strangers in Covidland

by Katie Hoffmann

Blurry-eyed after 36 hours of flying with kids, we handed over our passports. The customs official returned a hearty, “Welcome Home.” 

Those words felt almost digestible as we entered the Seattle International Airport after years overseas working for a Christian non-profit. Although we were grieving all the goodbyes, I felt ready to embrace my country of origin once again. 

Despite my best intentions, reverse culture shock struck in a big way. We had little to no training in re-entry. This left me feeling paralyzed by stuff that should be easy like trying to keep kids quiet in the library or driving on the right side of the road. 

After three years stateside, I’ve gladly regained those skills, but occasionally, I fall flat and feel overwhelmed by culture shock again. 

Recently, we moved again to a new country, except this time our passport wasn’t stamped. It was a sudden departure without glamour and thankfully no cobras. Here’s the funny part: We haven’t even left our house except for one of us who is deemed an “essential worker.” 

Covidland is my new country and once again I must reorient. 

Actions I once thought were normal like talking to a person nearby now have both different implications and results. The way people greet each other is foreign. Elbows? A curtsy? This feels awkward. Can I just use a southeast Asian greeting? 

Classes are now on new platforms of technology. My kids are expected to learn technical culture, as we parents wade through murky waters of Internet security with youngsters. But, unlike with Zoom we can’t mute all the static, conspiracy theories, rude language and stuff that hits us on all ends during this unique time. Divisive warfare is erupting all around me. To relate in this new country is requiring deflecting skills, because the arrows of mindless attack are piercing our community. 

I’m dumbfounded as I find myself jerked between a polarized nation offering two heated sides of opinion and the irony of 40 different cereal choices. Sides have been drawn without healthy nuance, and I’d like to bury my head in my cereal but I can’t. 

I’m exhausted. 

I’m regretting not getting more pre-field training, but some moves happen too fast and necessitate learning on the job. 

As I pull my face out of my Coco Puffs, I remind myself that I must not become complacent no matter which country I reside in. We as the church can never stop being a student of the culture around us. We don’t get a free pass on cultural understanding just because we have a right to act a certain way. 

In a society that for too long has defined churches by buildings and programs, we can easily forget that God’s main directives have not changed and despite a lot of changes around us, we are not banned from loving our neighbor or even sharing the gospel. 

How I interact in my new country and culture will ultimately open or close doors to people’s receptiveness to the Gospel message. 

So I ask the hard questions… 

In a nation that is so often an either/or nation can we choose to be a both/and person? Can we bridge to people in many different groups? 

Can we care about American liberties and still choose to wear a face mask to a store no matter where we stand on the issue? Yes. Can we support small business and physically distance to show care for the more at-risk folks? Yes. Can we request our state government reassess our phases of local reopening and do it in a way that respects others? Yes. Can we both disagree with someone’s opinion and support their family? Yes. Can we do this all in a loving way? Yes! 

As believers we need to be keeping the main thing the main thing. Yes, I know, loving the multitude of neighbors can and will feel stretching and uncomfortable, because culture bridging is real. I’ve experienced that in my home state and overseas. Overseas, dressing in long pants and sleeves in 90-degree tropical weather felt horrid at times, but I knew my neighbors would disrespect me and it would not be loving to disrespect the people around me in conservative Muslim regions by wearing shorts and a tank top. I gladly sweated for the opportunity to connect with those in my community. 

Will we gladly wear a mask into a store and not tear apart the store clerks who are simply enforcing what they’ve been told to do? Just like in my experience overseas, clothes are contextual. In situations where others are uncomfortable it behooves me to be sensitive to that. In other cases where people don’t care, it then becomes my own choice based on research. 

Culture stretching and culture shock happen even when people look the same and own the same passport. It can be more difficult and blindsiding because when we look alike we expect to have the same internal wiring, but we often don’t. Might I be so bold as to say many of us are sliding into culture shock? 

If we aren’t careful culture shock will cause us to attack the neighbor instead of bridging the gap. Because let’s be frank, we’ve all moved to a new land and you are well past phase one of culture shock. The homemade bread- making and binge-watching Netflix is over. You have moved on and if you aren’t careful you won’t pull past it without a lot of destruction. 

Store workers and government officials will not forget your face if you, in a fit of rage, mock or tear them apart. If you reach out later to them to share the message of Christ’s redeeming love, good luck. 

I’ll never forget the day in Southeast Asia when another mother chastised me for letting my daughter play out in the rain. “Illness doesn’t come from dirt or germs! It comes from the rain and wind.” She scolded me. 

I was struggling with culture shock that week and I wanted to do things MY way. I took a deep breath and said, “Thank you for caring about my kids. I’m new here and still learning.” I knew at that moment I had a right to let my daughter play in the rain. I had a right to my own free speech. I hated to be chastised by another woman, but I swallowed my pride. My words needed to reflect our human connection and not a state of winning. 

Let us not forget our humanity. Let us be mindful of how we approach the ever-shifting cultures around us. No matter where you stand on how things are operating in Covidland, let your actions and words build bridges and not walls. 

We are all new here and we are all still learning.

~~~~~~~~~~~

In second grade, a bubble gum container full of international coins sparked Katie’s heart to discover God’s world. That spark would be kindled through years of interaction and work with refugees and international students. In her early twenties, she married a flyboy and they landed with their first baby in Indonesia. Between killing spiders and drinking tea with local women she continued to grow in her faith and desire to serve. Although transition has brought their now larger family stateside, the fire in her heart still burns. Today you can find Katie mingling with neighbors, advocating for and connecting with refugees, teaching her kids, flying with her husband, gardening, and always learning. 

 

Amazing Grace & a Prayer for the Human Family

Sunset over Cairo – 2011
Photo credit – Stefanie Sevim Gardner

I’m sitting at my desk in our guest bedroom when the bells from the church across the street begin to ring. They began at eight in the morning and they end at ten at night, giving us a full ten hours without being reminded of the time.

This is new for me. While hearing the call to prayer was a sound embedded into my childhood, I rarely heard church bells. These church bells also tend to peel out the tune of “God Bless America” a bit too often for my liking.

But this morning, as though sensing my despair, I heard the sound of “Amazing Grace.”

Amazing Grace – that hymn sung by believers and non-believers with its haunting melody and stunning truth.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

John Newton

Most of us know the history of this song. John Newton’s past as a slave trader, his conversion, his stepping into grace and writing a song. But nothing is quite as simple as the short histories that we read, In fact, it took him three more slave trading voyages before he’d had enough. It took him even longer, 34 years longer, to write a “blazing pamphlet” called “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade” – a publication used by John Wilberforce, a member of British Parliament, to put forward a bill to abolish the slave trade. Newton died six months after the bill was passed in 1807.

I relate with this history. We often take baby steps along our journey toward understanding better what it is to love our world and seek justice as Jesus would, only to look back in stunned disbelief that it took us so long. We look back at our excuses and they seem so pitiful.

And yet – Grace.

Most of us at A Life Overseas are deeply involved in organizations, projects, and with people around the world where injustice is a daily reality. I would submit that it is easier to face injustice in countries and places that we don’t legally belong to. We can see these and have an outsider’s view even if they are a daily part of our work. Turn the camera on our passport countries and suddenly it gets personal.

At least, that is how it’s been for me.

If you , like me, are mourning and longing for a better world; if you, like me are praying for your passport country, wherever it is, and the injustices you see there; if you, like me are longing to do more, longing to fight injustice wherever you see it, feeling guilty about not doing enough yet completely overwhelmed with all that life has brought you in the past weeks – displacement, death, sickness, loss of friendships, goodbyes, uncertainty, inability to plan for the future – I offer you this prayer today.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord…..

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer – Prayer for the Human Family and Prayer for Social Justice

In closing, may you soak in these words from Eugene Cho:

Chaos ensues. Anxiety rises. Lament is in the air. Yet, Christ is our anchor. Hold tight. Be steadfast. Resist the empire. Be compassionate. Pursue justice. Stand with the oppressed. Fight for the vulnerable. Seek God’s Kingdom. And keep pointing people to Jesus.

Amen. Come quickly Lord Jesus.


Posts on A Life Overseas that focus on Racism

A Trip to the Embassy

by Seth Lewis

I was excited. We’d only lived in Ireland a few months—long enough to begin to feel the reality of deep differences, but not nearly long enough to adjust to them. Our second son had just been born, a different experience in a different medical system, and we needed to register his birth at the United States embassy. American soil, in Ireland. It would be nice to get a little taste of all we’d left behind. A few hours on the motorway got us to Dublin, where we found the US embassy—a big round thing looking out of place on its street-corner, like a landed UFO. Like us. 

To get through the outer wall, we had to go through security. I hadn’t anticipated that, but it made sense, and I knew what to do. On the other side of the metal detector, the ground was American. Even the flowers were red, white, and blue. This was going to be fun.

I opened the door to the UFO, and was immediately struck by the lack of country music. Not even rock. Nothing. Just another security guard, another metal detector, and a sign that said “Please take a number”. A number? I’m not a number, I’m an American! This is my embassy! 

I took a number. White walls and tiles. Uncomfortable chairs. Drop ceiling. I knew there was a ballroom in the building, but no one offered to show it to me. Come to think of it, the room did look familiar. I’d seen this set up before, in America, at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Office. 

An embassy is a US government office. I should have known it would look like one. That I would hear several people being refused before I got a turn to hand my number through the thick (bullet proof?) glass and hope I had every form and supporting document exactly right. Somehow I had thought they would be as happy as I was to see another American. I had wanted a taste of things we left behind. I got one.

We walked out past the red, white, and blue flowers and through the security gate. On the other side, the Irish ground felt a little more like home. In the car, I played country music.

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Seth Lewis has lived on the south coast of the Republic of Ireland for the last ten years with his wife Jessica; two of their three children were born there. He works with a network of local churches who are committed to church planting and also assists with a local Bible college and youth camp ministry. Before moving overseas, Seth worked with a church in Virginia. His accent doesn’t really fit anywhere anymore, and he’s okay with that. You can find him online at sethlewis.ie.