That Was My Uncle’s Name

I meet a little girl about the age of 5 or 6 this past week that really impacted my life. I meet her while we were running a soccer clinic for a Boys & Girls club in one of the less fortunate areas of town. Her name was Makala and she was a sweet little girl with a big gap tooth smile, as she was missing her front all four of her front teeth, and one of those infectous laughs that can cause you to crack up from just watching her giggle.

I introduced myself to Makala and shook her hand. The short interaction that took place after that has been bouncing around in my brain and heart all week. As I shook her hand and told her my name her eyes lit up with excitement because we had an immediate connection. She looked at me with that big gap toothed smile and said, “That was my uncle’s name…” at which I became very excited because I thought that I would be able to relate to her on a different level now that we had a connection. But then Makala’s face, the same face that seemed to be filled with joy and excitement, dropped as she continued to speak before I could interrupt her words. Makala continued with “… but he had to die. The cops had to shoot him.”

As those words poured out of Makala’s mouth my heart broke at the pain that I heard in her voice, but more so at the reality that this little girl had to live in. A beautiful, innocent little girl at the age of 5 or 6 had a construct of life that was filled with pain and death. I started to ponder this situation and it wrecked me completely. Makala may never know or understand what our Savior means in Matthew 15 when He says, “Greater Love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The only death that she sees in her small world right now is the kind of death that comes at gunpoint when the cops have to shoot her uncle because he was living a self-absorbed, wreckless life. She constantly sees people taking other people’s lives through violence, hate, and selfishness; but will she ever see someone “lay down” their life for her. Makala may never understand how deeply loved she is by her Savior because she may never see people in this world that would rather lay down there life than take it from others for their own gain.

Jesus is very bold in stating this as He knows that He is on his way to the cross to lay down his life for you and I. He came near so that Makala would know that even in the middle of death and violence that He would and did lay down His life for her. And what disturbs me the most is that I do not have this love for even my friends, much less Makala. While her story broke my heart, would I really be willing to lay down my life for her? Would I be willing to consider her needs more highly than my own? Would I be willing to even think that her life is more precious than mine?  The more I dwell on this the more I think that the answer is no.

So how can I truly be a follower of Christ when in my heart I know right now that I don’t have this “greater Love” that He speaks of for my fellow man? How do I go from loving myself and my desires to seeing others’ needs more highly than my own? How do I love with a reckless abandon so that the little, innocent Makalas in the world might catch a glimpse of Jesus in how I lay down my desires and life for her?

Do I really have to die to myself so that I can love others fully? I think that is a question that all of us need to ponder and wrestle through as we continue on with this journey in Christ. May it never be that my own selfishness leads to a little girl like Makala seeing me and knowing that I selfishly took from her as she looks in my eyes and says, “That was my uncle’s name.”

Marginal Love

So I’ve been dwelling on this question that I first posted last week and really trying find out in my heart what Love really is. As I thought about Love, in its truest form, I found myself asking the question, “Do I know what this True Love is?” I reflected on my week and the world around me and I honestly could not come up with an answer to my own question.

I look at my life; my relationships, my job, my dreams and I realize that the Love that I dwell in is so marginal! I even approach myself with this marginal love.

What do I mean by marginal love? I think it is a love that can only be seen on the outskirts of my life, as if it is the borders on the page of a story. I noticed that I really only love myself when I feel that I’m living in success and prosperity that I have defined. Many times I only love others when I know that I will receive love in return, or when I feel that I need to make my soul feel better, so I extend a helping hand. This marginal love that I dwell in is so unsatisfying! I find myself longing for relationships that are deeply rooted together, intertwining their roots and drinking from the same source of life. My soul longs to love without regard and give without return, but my hands are still clinched tightly against my chest. The beat of my heart wants to flow with the unforced rhythms of grace, but finds that it stubbles over my own two feet as the rhythm is unfamiliar to me. The walls of pain, self-love, and fear trap me in my own heart as I try and carve a peeping hole to see if Love exists outside of these walls.

What would it look like if there was no such thing as this marginal love? If the outskirts of our lives became the very essence of who we are as people? What if I actually loved myself for nothing more than the mere fact that I am called loved and beautiful by my creator? How would my heart change if I walked in this love? When I came across someone in need or in pain, would it be a struggle for me to stop and listen to their story, or would I let my story be interwoven into theirs so that we could become a beautiful novel together?

You see I ask myself this question of “What is Love?” and I think that this is a question that we do not ask ourselves enough. If we really wanted the answer to this question it starts with laying the books of our lives open to let people read, and not yanking them away to shut them when we get to an embarrassing part. As our stories are read, we are connected more intimately to others than we can know. Our roots begin to intertwine and we begin to support each other and find life together at the same time. The hands that were once found clinched tightly at our chest are not found warmly wrapped around a friend in a loving embrace. And the ballroom will be full of friends and guests dancing a beautifully unforced waltz that is played on the heartstrings of our souls.

So the question is not as abstract as “What is Love?”, but rather “Am I Loving?” Do I love enough to open up the love story of my life to be read and studied? Or are the walls of pain, self-love, and fear keeping me from publishing the beautiful work of art that is the story of my heart?

Let’s begin to walk in this beauty. Finding every story valuable and loved as Christ does. Calling people beautiful and loved because that is what the creator calls us. Not being able to put the stories aside and go to sleep because we are too interested in hearing what is to come next. What a story we live!

Laying Down One’s Life

So I just officiated my first wedding a couple of weekends ago. It was a beautiful and inspiring depiction of what love can be. My friends that are now married really love and sacrifice their own wants for each other. They not only worry about their own needs but look out for each others needs first and foremost.

I read a passage of scripture during their ceremony that says “This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” I really reflected on that passage in my preparation of the ceremony. Even in these past couple of weeks I’ve really been trying to wrap my mind around what this really means and how or if it is seen in my life. So many times I choose to love myself more than I do others. I choose what is best for my life no matter who else it affects and I often get frustrated if that which is best in my life is thwarted in any way. What is it within me that makes it so hard to “Put my life on the line for my friends”? What’s funny is that it’s hard for me to love my friends and lay down my life for them, yet Christ asks me to go one further. He tells me to love my enemies because anyone can love their friends, but love that He values loves those that may not even deserve it. Then I stand challenged and left pondering if I even grasp this very best way of love that Jesus is talking about here in this passage.

So as I watched my friends dance their first dance and gaze into each others’ eyes, I could tell that Love was firmly established in their hearts for one another. That they would “Put their lives on the line” for one another. And I began to ask myself, how do I love everyone in that way? Not in the romantic sense of the word, but truly love people so much that I would not even hesitate to put my life on the line for anyone that came into may path. That is what Christ did through the Cross and what I believe that he calls us to do in our lives.

I read a story about Mother Teresa the other day that depicts this love for others and “Putting her life on the line for others”. There was a young man that was helping Mother (that’s what everyone in the community called her) in Calcutta. One day he caught a glimpse of Mother’s feet and noticed that they were deformed very badly. He wandered how her feet could have ended up like this, but he dare not ask her and offend her. A few days later one of the other sisters there in Calcutta asked the young man if he had noticed that Mother’s feet were deformed. She asked him if he wanted to know how they got that way and he nodded his head timidly. The sister went on to tell him that each year the community in Calcutta receives just enough shoes for everyone to have one pair. Mother loved the people of the community so much, even those she didn’t know, that she would dig through the piles of shoes and find the worst pair and wear them so that no one else would be stuck with them. She had been doing this for so many years that it had deformed her feet to what they are now. She choose the needs and desires of others, without letting anyone know, so much that it left her deformed. That is Love, and that is putting one’s life on the line for others!

So I’ve walked these last couple of weeks wondering how I can be deformed by Love as Mother was. How can I choose to put my life on the line to love others? How can I dig through the piles of life and wear love so that no one has to put on the worst pair? As I do this am I willing to be so transformed by Love that I may even be scarred and broken in it? When I really answer these questions truthfully, so many times the answer is no. But I want to be one that Lays down my life for others. I want to put on the worst shoes so others don’t have to. Let’s begin to search through the piles of shoes for each other as Christ followers and for everyone, so that no one is left with the worst. As we do this I believe that our lives and the lives of others will be transformed. Maybe we will be so lucky to be like Mother and become deformed from our love for others. The question is, “Are we willing to put OUR lives on the line?” That’s the question we all need to answer.

Dreaming Again?

Have any of you ever felt as if you were in a huge slumber and that your life was just one incoherent dream? You know the kind of dream where you barely remember any of it, but all that you know is that right before the best part of the dream you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep to enjoy the sweet ending. I ask this because I have felt for many years that my life has been a constant dream that I never get to the ending of or at least the enjoyable part, but I just live in the ongoing boredom of my life! I’ve found myself in a sense sleep walking through this beautiful thing called LIFE and have forgotten how to dream and even how to enjoy it for the last 6 or 7 years of my life.

What really excites me is when the inner most longing of my being begins to well up inside of me and burst out all over my life no matter what condition or situation my life is in. The last time I truly experienced this longing to fulfill the inner most cry of my heart was when I was getting recruited to play college soccer. You see my life’s goal from the time I was 5 was to play college soccer and move onto the pros after that. When the first coach called me and told me that they were interested in me and wanted me to come visit their campus, my heart leap because my dream of playing college soccer was right at my finger tips and I could taste the satisfaction in the air everywhere I went. I walked with my head higher and enjoyed even the mundane details of life because what made my soul most satisfied was coming true.

Over the past few years I have forgotten what that feeling was like until just recently when I began to dream again and Christ began to lay dreams in my heart all over again. You see for so long I’ve been this so called “Christian” leader that has followed the paths that are set up for “Christian social” success, and in doing so my soul has been rotting away! I’d forgotten that I lived for and walked with an all-powerful Savior that calls me to Love Him and Love People. I’d forgotten that He was a God of Reconciliation and Restoration! I have not experienced the quenching of my soul’s thirst for Him by drinking deeply of His Love in so long! But what is so amazing about this Savior Jesus is that all it takes is one taste of His Life Giving water to restore my life and to re instill dreams in my heart.

So what are these dreams? What could I possibly be so excited about that my spirit leaps within my soul? I’m excited that I get to walk with the broken and burdened of my world. I’m excited that I get to love the unlovable and the unwanted. I’m longing to give without return, to love without reserve, to serve without reward, and to destroy this social hierarchy that has been created in our society! I’m overflowing not only to love those in 3rd world countries, but to love and serve those that are in need right now in my community around me! You see I dream of a world where we break down barriers with Unrelenting Love! I dream of a society like the one that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of in his famous speech “I Have A Dream”! I dream of a day when us as the people that call ourselves Christ followers truly follow Christ and live as He says to live in Matthew 25:31-46. I long to be a person that feeds the hungry, gives a drink to the thirsty, rooms the homeless, clothes the shivering and naked, visits the sick, broken and imprisoned. You see I long for my life to be one of Unrelenting Love for everyone that I come in contact with.

So my question is, Is this your dream? What do we want to be know for in our lives, for people of success or as people of LOVE?! When I look back at my life, what impact in the lives of the least of these can I say that I’ve had, not for my glory or honor but simply for the sake of Love? So I’m beginning to have these dreams well up inside of me and rejuvenate my life! I’m beginning to dream of Love again! I no longer want to slumber and miss out on the fulfillment of this dream, I want to dwell in this dream for eternity! Will anyone else dream along side of me?

It’s Been a Long Time

I know it’s been about two months now since I’ve last posted anything on my blog. So much for wanting to stay consistent on this, that has never been a strength of mine in administrative areas.

The past couple of weeks I have really been battling through some pride and disconnection from the world. You may talk to me and think to yourself, “Man he is a pretty open and real guy.” I want to be the first to tell you that I’m a complete liar! I have really been closed off with the deepest parts of my heart. My fears, my sins, my desires and my emotions have all been hidden under this veal of togetherness that I try and personify. And it’s not even intentional, it has just become so conditioned in my nature that it actually takes me time to sit and reflect on my life to even realize that I’m living in this way. So as the great philosopher Usher would say, “These are my confessions”…

I am terrified! I’m scared of life and what it has to bring, what I am missing out on, where I’m not succeeding, lack of intimacy and deep connection, and lack of vision. I’m terrified that I have built up these walls that where I’m so guarded from others that they really never get to know “Michael Anderson” but just the personification of who I want them to think he is. I’m afraid that I will never be truly loved, even though I say that I love and worship a Savior that truly is Love. I feel like I suck as a pastor, that I don’t communicate direction well. I’m horrified that I’m a terrible big brother to a little sister that I love deeply, but never seem to be able to express that love how I really want to. I dwell long periods of time on whether or not my sins of pride, lust, lack of self control, and anger will be exposed. I can’t sleep at night because my mind continues to go over and over the opportunities that I missed to love others and give myself away so that they may feel loved. So while this may seem like just another guy writing a blog exposing himself so that he seems vulnerable it’s not. I’m not vulnerable, I’m not open, it takes everything within my to confess these things right now but I know that I have to.

I have to expose myself or I will never be free from myself. There is something innately in me that lies to my very nature all the time and unless I call myself out, I will never be free from that bondage. You see I’m a very prideful and independent guy, which is nothing to be proud of even though our culture tells us this is a great strength. I really don’t even know what my desires and dreams are many times because I’m too busy trying to act like I’m good to go and focused. Many times I don’t even know what my emotions and heart are telling me because of this very same battle. So if you’re reading this you may be saying why is he saying all this, is there a point? Saying all of this is the point.

Yesterday as I was dwelling in scripture for a bit and I read the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. In the Message version it speaks on how Jesus our Messiah came along side us and walked with us through are dark and hard times. He also brings us others going through crappy times so that we can walk together in our brokenness in order that we may comfort each other. Paul speaks of connection with people and Christ that is deeper than anything that I feel like I have ever experienced. The words that got me the most were those that said, “Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally–not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!” I mean seriously! These are guys that were being killed and persecuted, tortured, beaten and starving. And they rejoice in that because they had to trust God totally! I’m such a douche! And how hard is it to trust in the very same God that raises Himself and other from the dead?

As I read this I was broken. I want community like this. Community that loves and walks with one another no matter what. Community that believes so deeply in the God that they say they believe in that they encourage each other by the very essence of His resurrection power. I want a community that John talks about in 1 John when he says if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another. I want the story of my life to be written in bold and printed all over my life so that everyone can read, even those that I don’t trust as I’ve already stated I don’t even trust myself sometimes. I want to be able to look back at a week and say the worst is over and I can hold my head up high or rest it on the shoulders others.

Is this a community that you long for? Would you be willing to walk in the light so that this community can really exist? If so, let’s begin to walk in trials together. Let’s be a people that rest on each other even in our brokenness. Let’s love each other so deeply that when our worlds are devastated we know that someone will be running to sweep away the rumble of destruction in our lives. Let’s be His church like this beautiful depiction in 2 Corinthians. Let’s not let it be too long till we do this. If not now, then when?

Conspire to Love

I’m on a blogging kick right now. Something that is really on my heart is this movement call Advent Conspiracy. If you have not heard about it I would encourage you to go and visit their website at http://www.adventconspiracy.org They are trying to unfold the true meaning of Christmas that we seem to have lost in our world today and specifically in America.

The reason I think that this is so powerful, not only to the world but to us that are on the faith journey together, is that Jesus almost directly speaks of this very need over 2,000 years ago.

In Matthew 10:40 Jesus says,

“We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

One simply thing like giving a cool cup of water makes us a true apprentice of Him. But an apprentice does not stop and in getting the basics of what the master is trying to teach, but he goes further and tries to understand the overarching meaning behind why the master is teaching this. I think Jesus wants us to stop thinking about ourselves and to start loving others deeply. I think that He would even say that He wants us to cure this water crisis that we have in the world today.

I was so convicted when I saw some of the videos on the AC website. I just wrote a check for $2,000 dollars to pay down my truck debt. When I saw this video and spoke with some people deeply involved in this movement I found out that $3,000 dollars would have rehabbed a well so that a whole village of people could have clean water for 7 years. 7 YEARS OF CLEAN, COOL WATER and I decided to pay off a truck for one! Does that sound like an apprentice to you? I would say no, and go so far as to say Hell No!

Never again God, let me think about my own needs and desires before the well being of the forgotten and overlooked. Teach me how to be your apprentice by starting to extend a hand with a cool drink of water.

How are we being His apprentices in this movement? How are we loving those in the world that are overlooked and forgotten? Are our hands extending a cool cup of water for those in need, or are we hording our riches to ourselves? God help us that we may be your apprentices!

Screaming

Do you ever feel like just standing up and screaming at the top of your lungs until your voice cracks and you have no energy left to stand? Do you ever just want to sit and cry because for some reason you are overwhelmed by this huge weight of sadness and brokenness?

I ask because I’ve been dwelling in these feelings for the past couple of weeks but haven’t been able to scream or weep for some reason. There is this overwhelming desire to let the cries of my heart out yet I sit in my reserved state so much so that I begin to become numb toward these emotions. So I actually began to ask the question, “What is my heart wanting to scream, and why I’m I holding back?”

Many times I look at my life and wonder, “What good am I doing? Is my life really valuable? I’m I making a difference in the world? Is it better because my feet tread this earth, or is it unmarked by my presence?” You see I have this longing to have meaning in life. I want to know that I have helped someone feel loved or picked up someone who is broken or desperate and helped stand them back on their feet again. I long to look at my day and say to myself that “Michael you did good today!” But I think that my heart wants to scream and my eyes want to weep because so much of my life is focused around myself. So much of my effort throughout the day is accomplishing my agendas and wants. It is a rare occasion that I actually stop for a second to Become Hope to someone and listen to their story, hear their pain and worst of all actually care about that pain! I mean really, I have to focus to care for others, does that even make sense? How am I ever going to help restore someone if I never take to time to learn their name, and what’s important to them? How am I going to know what is needed in a broken life if I walk along head down with my schedule in hang looking to what is the next checklist item of my day that has to been finished?

My heart is shouting at me to STOP!, WAIT, LISTEN to those who are in need. My eyes are becoming blurry with tears so that I stop looking ahead and have to use my ears to hear what my surroundings are whispering to me. My Heart SCREAMS to me in the night to LOVE SO DEEPLY that it is inseparable from my very essence! It rouses me from my slumber so many nights that I can’t even keep track of it anymore. My heart is exploding within me to love and give! My inner being is SCREAMING to love and restore those that need to be loved! The question I have to ask myself now is, “Michael, will your mouth, life, and efforts begin to whisper what your heart and soul are screaming?”

I want to begin to whisper and converse about these longings and love. I want to whisper love everywhere that my feet tread out my path. Let us begin to whisper together about this love, so that one day when enough of us are whispering that our voices begin a war cry against poverty, hate, brokenness, and selfishness! Then our whispers will be powerful and unnerving to the world while at the same time bringing it comfort and a sense of belonging. I want to walk whisper together now, will you whisper with me?