Sunday, December 16, 2012

onto San Diego, Narnia, and Fayetteville

One year ago I was driving away from Fayetteville, having no idea what the next year of my life would hold. 
So much has happened in a year, it exhausts me to think of it. I don’t know the me that walked in my place just a short 365 days ago because I am a completely new and different person.  I didn’t know that when I got on January 9th, when I got on a plane flight destined to San Diego, that that would be the end of all that I had ever known.  How sweet is it now to look back and reminisce on the joy and the sorrow and the heartbreak and the dancing and the laughing and the wonderful chaotic disaster that Kony2012 and my semester with Invisible Children was.  It’s humbling and really laughable to think of the three months I spent in a van with Team Midwest and the 119 days I spent as full-time volunteer.  My mind immediately flashes to the moment we heard Kony2012 hit one million views and we drove into the sunset listening to Kanye West in Green Bay, WI.  Or when Hayley walked into the basement of the roadie house and yelled, “where my people at?!” as Saul, Abbey, and I engulfed our team leader for the first time.  I think of driving away from Libertyville High School and getting the call that Jason had a melt down and the times when we thought we had conquered the world and the others when we couldn’t force our eyes to open because of the tears.  I won’t ever forget when I heard Oyella Jane tell all of the roadies on Mount Soledad to take heart because we were going to change the world.  What if I had believed her at the time?  What if I had believed Jedidiah Jenkins when he told me and 600 other desperate kids, “the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who can.”?  If I had believed them, would it had changed me so much when I woke up one morning and realized we had changed the world? 
            So much happened in those short and beautiful five months.  And so much has happened since.
            Little did I know that the greatest change in me would come when I got back to Little Rock, after the greatest adventure of my life, and picked up the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time.  I had no clue that in the short nine days it took me to read of the creation, journeys, triumphs, failures, and destruction of Narnia, I would watch my myself go through the same process.  How faithful is the Lord?  When we question and when we doubt, He keeps His arms open. 
            For the summer months after I got home from San Diego and on the heels of Narnia, I let bitterness and anger tear at me every day. I have been confused about injustice for years and I feel like I haven’t been ignorantly accepting Christian reasons for evil without really searching in myself first, but this summer it overran me.  To let sorrow embrace your heart can be good thing, but only when its close companion, joy, accompanies it.  But without refreshing joy, sorrow crippled us and for months it did just that in me. 
            In August I moved back to Fayetteville and I joined in with the five guys I live with on a week long trip to Montana before school started back up.  Montana is a long trip away from Fayetteville to say the least and I had the privilege of driving the night shift on the way up.  So in the middle of Wyoming with my friends around me asleep and music playing at 4 in the morning, I let Jesus know of my frustration.  I don’t know why it took me so long to ask Jesus the questions I had, instead of just writing about them and complaining about injustice and all to my friends and family.  I literally yelled and cursed and cried and let my anger burn within me.  After about twenty minutes or so, I breathed deeply and I really believe the Lord put an answer on my heart.  I wish with all that I am that I could say I heard Him tangibly say this to me, but in some ways I feel like the Spirit gently (and often violently) whispering in my openings of my soul, can be just as effective in my life than if I were to hear the audible voice of God.  I don’t know why evil exists and I don’t know why injustice runs rampant but I do believe with all that I am that Jesus is real.  And if Jesus is real, if He is at this moment who He said He was when He walked with His disciples, then I can trust Him.  Since that moment, I have had supernatural peace about it all.  I still have so many questions and am not okay with how things are in the world or with the Church, but I have true and undeniable peace.  I thought it was only going to be a momentary thing but here I am, five months later with that same peace conquering my every life.
            This semester in Fayetteville has been a whirlwind of grace, love, and miracles to say the least.  Just as words fail me to describe my incredible semester with Invisible Children, so they do with these last many months as well.  But I can’t help but laugh out loud as I remember coming back from Montana with a new view on walking in Love and what has happened since.  I am honored to see Jesus move in worship every Monday nights as hundreds of students have come and sought the Lord alongside us in raw and real community.  I praise Jesus for seeing salvation and discipleship and healing reign on our campus.   I praise Him for allowing me to experience the Church in a fullness that I have never before been able to see and how He has started the healing process in me with loving His bride.  The adventures in Mountainburg and White Rock and Kansas City and all the beautiful nights that Jesus has taken me to places I didn’t ever think I could ever go.
            And how gracious Jesus was to let this year all come to a head in Washington DC for Invisible Children’s event, MOVEDC.  I went for a four day adventure to rally for the human soul alongside of my IC family and my Fayetteville family. 
            I am glad that 2012 is almost over.  Changes will always happen in life, but I pray for mercy that every year does not hold as much dramatic change as this year did for me.  But truly, my friends, whatever the Lord’s lot for me, I will take.  I am not guaranteed tomorrow or 2013, but I do know that as long as I live I will love Jesus and love people.  Through every question and hurt and curse and dance, I will continue to run to the mountains because I believe I will fall into His arms at the end. 
             I know this: If Jesus is not who He said He was, I am to be the most pitied because all I am now , all I have been, and all I will be is for Him and in Him.  But I also know that the Spirit has used 2012 to destroy me and make me and no matter how hard I tried earlier this summer to deny Jesus, I found myself on my knees saying, “Hallelujah”. 

“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His Name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
- Jeremiah 20:9

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

with all of humanity,

I feel like every time I sit down to blog about a big life experience, I always start out with something along the lines of “there are no words to explain what I have experienced” or something very close to that.  I feel like that is a massive cop out and honestly, I’m okay with that.  Because the English language can only go so far to express what is so deeply and profoundly engrained into our hearts forever.  Truthfully, I don’t know how to adequately explain my semester of being a roadie with Invisible Children.  I could try and talk about the world-changing Kony2012 campaign and all the ways that I believe a bunch of rag tag kids changed the world, but I don’t think that would make for a good expression of the last semester for me.  (and besides, how many of you would believe me? And does it really matter?) I can only tell you how I believe I fell short and what I learned from those failures.  It might be odd but I believe that strength comes from weakness and in the glaring moments of my inadequacy, I learned to overcome (or something along those lines).
            I remember the few days after Kony2012 went viral, when we all felt infinite.  At last, our hearts and cries had been heard by the world.  But that was quickly toppled by a tsunami of criticisms.  We dealt with those for a couple of weeks and then just as it seemed like we were going to come out on top, our founder Jason had a meltdown.  I remember hearing the news of my friend and feeling my heart shatter into a thousand pieces.  Nonetheless, we stayed on tour and I began to grow very bitter towards all of the critics of Kony2012 and what we were doing.  My heart grew more and more calloused as one high school kid after another would tell me why they was an expert on the Kony conflict and why we were a scam.  I would often stuff my feelings and complain over and over to my team, “why can’t people just do their research? Why is it so hard?” 
            One morning, about a week or two after we got the news about Jason, I woke early and decided to spend some time with Jesus.  I was writing and praying when my weakness hit me.  It hit me so hard, that I will truly never be the same.  It was as if Jesus opened my eyes and I realized how I’m just like everyone that I had been complaining about.
            I’m human. We’re all human and I’m painfully human, at that.
            I’ve always known this, or at least I think I have but I’ve never felt it as much as I did that morning.  We are all just lost in this huge universe trying to find our way and who am I to get frustrated with people for “not doing their research” on Invisible Children and Kony 2012 when I am the exact same way.  I am the first person to hate on TOMS or any other organization that I don’t understand or have heard a rumor or two about their “bad” development (whatever that may mean). 
            And what I learned is I need grace, desperately.  I also need to give it.  That is commonly preached in the Church, but never really executed.  So how was I suppose to do it when the only way I’ve ever seen grace given was by Jesus Himself?  Grace is such a vital and missing piece in our lives.  We talk about it and get it tattooed on our wrists in Hebrew, but have we ever really understood it?  And that goes for everyone, not just the Church.  We are all humans and we all have issues and we need to figure something out about how to give grace.  Something.  Someway.
            Another huge thing I learned was that the world is not the Bible Belt.  And that in itself sounds like another “duh, Chris” type thing to say but really.  I’ve grown up in Arkansas and even though I’ve been overseas multiple times, all the trips were with a Christian group for Christian reasons.  So even that in itself was an extension of the Bible Belt that I have been held in my whole life.  Well friends, going to California for a semester (and only 4 and a half months at that) I finally got a glimpse of what life is like without the legalistic grip of religion threating to put a noose around you with one wrong step.  And I got to breathe in clean air, with no prejudices and learned new ways of looking at just about everything.  I hesitate writing that because I feel like I am opening myself up to some lectures about being careful, but really friends it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  It was Jesus giving me the semester of learning to love without expectation and the outside of the lines of what has always fit inside of my “Christianity” and duty.
            I can look at my faith now in the terms of “Loving God, Loving People” with nothing else attached.  I began to see people in a new light.  God tore me apart and let me face adversity for the first time and with that showed me what roll grace needed to play in my life and freed me from the death hold that religion held on me.  And when all of it seems to come to a head for me, I retreated to simply being alone with Jesus and praying and reading and seeking Him in the purest way I know or have ever known.  And with a result of me being more in love with Jesus than I have ever been in my whole life.  I am a recovering legalist and every day falling and being picked back up by Jesus.  I am hopelessly falling in love with Him and with people.
            The third thing I learned is that decaf coffee serves no purpose.  I’ve told that to some people and they have laughed at me, but I’m serious.  A huge lesson learned this tour was that there is no point to drink decaf coffee, it does nothing and usually doesn’t taste good either.
            I have been home now for about three weeks and have been fumbling over these words ever since the hour I got onto a plane heading out of San Diego.  It has been a monstrous task getting back to life here.  Thank God for the precious gift of my family and their willingness to hear me screaming my lungs out in frustration and my endless rants of growing up.  They are God’s extension of continuing to teach me what grace looks like.  I am changing at a rapid pace and my soul is just trying to keep up with my body and my life. 
            Over all this last semester was perfect.  I laughed more than I have ever laughed, cried more than I have ever cried, danced more than I ever danced, and loved more than I have ever loved.  It’s just as my friend Lindsey wrote, “what a messy and magnificent season.”  I will never be the same because of this journey, but hallelujah that is just the beginning to a constant and ever-growing adventure of falling more and more in love with Jesus and with people. 
            And I invite you all to join me in this next season of my life as I attempt to document it with stories and poems and tales of a young broken kid learning to dance.

Fayetteville, I'm coming for ya.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

with beautiful timing,

Maybe the world is supposed to be broken?  Maybe injustice is supposed to reign?  Maybe slavery will always exist?  Maybe this is just the way the world is and we need to let it be?

All of these questions have run through my mind over the last three weeks.  And they are merciless.  It has been a rollercoaster that is indescribable, full of the most emotion, pain, and joy that I’ve ever experienced.  It is impossible for me to put all of my thoughts down and try to pick through the adventure and journey of trying to answer all of those questions that I have asked. I’ve gone before God and begged Him, pleaded with Him, and yelled at Him in search of answers.  When Kony2012 went viral, I thought the world would unite and each of us would push to pursue justice as one.  I was wrong.  I’m not too surprised I guess, now that I look back over the whole situation.  But it absolutely crushes me how people have sought to destroy other human beings over issues as simple as human lives.  I don’t get it and it kills me.  I’m intensely confused and hurt.  Kony2012 is about humanity and people rising up for justice.  It’s as pure and as honest as that.  Some people have gotten that and have risen up together and we will stand and fight with our voices loud and our fists high.  There has been a massive outcry for justice from all over the world and for that, I rejoice.  I rejoice that it is more likely now, than it has ever been before, for Joseph Kony and his top commanders to be arrested and for the children to be rescued and the 440,000 plus who are displaced at this very moment, to return home. 

There are no easy answers but there are honest ones.  And as I have searched myself and begged Jesus to open me, I’ve learned these things: no, the world is not supposed to be broken. No, injustice is not supposed to reign.  No, slavery will not always exist.  No, this is not the way the world is supposed to be.  And I will fight for humanity because the answers to all of those questions is no.  Jesus offers life and I will stop at nothing to dance for that.  Just as Isaiah 61:1 says, He came to proclaim liberty to the captives.  And He is doing that and will do that for both the spiritual and physical oppressed. 

Friends, I am so inadequate, I have seen that in such a powerful and humbling way over the past weeks.  Human souls are fragile and I get angry when people bad talk Invisible Children or Jason Russell, but how many times have I myself done that to other organizations and people in the past?  Organizations are made up of people.  People have souls and they are the most important things in the whole world.  Oh, how much I have learned and how sick of a human being I am.  However, there is a scandalous and true grace that Jesus covers me with and allows me to come back to defend the rights of others around this world, and for that I sing. 

This is not a white man’s burden, it is a human burden.  I stand with the leaders of the Acholi-land and other leaders of Central African countries who met just a few short weeks ago to all pledge their support in ending the reign of terror of Joseph Kony.  If we cannot unite on an issue that simply says we believe this man must be stopped, what else can we unite on?  My heart is heavy.   And I am confused but will continue to pray earnestly for peace to remain in Northern Uganda as they recover from the aftermath of the LRA and for CAR, DRC, and South Sudan to recover from the recent terror or the LRA. 

This generation must come together for freedom.  No matter where you’re from, what you’re doing, or what you believe. Freedom is imperative and we must rise up, speak out, and fight.

This is what I know to be true: this week is the Holy Week and Jesus came, He died, and He rose again and we celebrate that.  What better of a time for Jesus to glorify Himself and bring Joseph Kony to justice?  The world is watching, join me in earnest prayer.  His time is perfect and I rest in that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

with great change,

With great change, comes great adversity.  And last week the world was introduced to Joseph Kony.  In the matter of a couple of hours over a million people had watched Invisible Children’s new film, Kony2012.  Within six days, near 100 million had.  The way the world views justice is changing before our very eyes, and for some reason unknown to me, I get to be a small part of it.
(remember, I am writing this all from my own personal opinion)
There are no words to describe it.  All I know is that a week and half ago, Kony2012 going viral was a distant dream and before we knew it, Jason Russell was on CNN.  I am driving around the country in a van with the world’s biggest story painted on the side.  How did I get here?  What is happening?  I have tried to wrap my head around what has happened in the last week but I’m having trouble grasping it and honestly, I may not be able to grasp just how huge last week was until 15 years down the road.  Until the day when parents are telling their children, “yeah, I remember when that film came out.  I remember the day when Joseph Kony was arrested.” 
My friends, there isn’t much to say and I’m not going to take long.  I know that there is a ton of controversy surrounding Invisible Children and Kony2012 right now, and it’s probably the first time in my life that I have felt this much criticism and adversity for what I have decided to do with my life.  Just know this, there are answers for every question (just ask!) and I am humbled to be a part of such an incredible organization of world-changers.  I am humbled to be under the leadership of incredible men, such as; Jason Russell, Ben Keesey, Zach Barrows, and Jedidiah Jenkins.  I am humbled to be a part of a movement that is changing the world.  I am humbled to know that when history takes attendance and asks, “where were you when this injustice was happening?”, I will be able to answer, “I showed up.”  I am humbled to know that the day is coming soon, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, that Joseph Kony will be arrested and brought to justice and the world will hear just how powerful our voices are.
It doesn’t matter what one thinks about Invisible Children, what matters is that we finally open our eyes and see what the real issue here is: human souls.   This world is not how is should be and it is up to us to change that.  It is up to us to radically challenge the way the world is run, and turn the power balance on its head.  We will hold human souls over everything else, no matter what and this generation is finally coming together to say that with one loud, strong, and magnificent voice.  We are the generation that has said no more to injustice.  We are the Fourth Estate.  And the word “humbled” to use how I feel to be a part of that is not only overused, but obscenely inadequate a description of how I truly feel to be on the frontlines for people and justice.
Three years ago when I stood in a Displacement camp in Gulu, Uganda I promised Jesus that I would do everything I could to fight injustice.  I prayed, “Here I am. Send me” just as Isaiah did, and look where He where He has sent me.  We are truly changing the world. 
When people ask me, “how did this happen? How did this go viral?”, my only answer for them is simply, God.  He desires justice and has heard the cry of the oppressed, as He promised in Psalm 10.  He has perfect timing and He is allowing Kony’s crimes to be made known so that when Kony is arrested and brought to justice, the world will see.  The world will see that no man can take children into slavery for his own selfish gain and get away unnoticed.  We care, we see, and we will stop at nothing for freedom. 
Last week, when the video went viral, a period of my life started that will prove to have changed me forever.  There were four days last week where every waking moment of the day, we were answering phones calls, emails, everything you can imagine about our cause.  We were trying to give answers to every criticism and tell people the truth.  We didn’t sleep, we didn’t breathe, but my friends, we danced.  In those four days I learned so much about myself.  I learned how far my mind and body can be pushed and how when the world feels like it’s against you, you can choose to not give in.  Each day was a roller coaster and I truly didn’t have time to sit down and begin to process what had happened that week until Friday morning.  And even then, I had a very hard time and will have a hard time processing everything for a long long time.  But I know this, that Jesus is faithful and strong and can give me grace to do much more than I ever thought possible. 
There is so much to say about Kony2012 and the worldwide phenomenon it has become.  I know that many of you have questions and I would love to do my best to answer them, but I wanted to say a couple of really quick things to wrap up this scatterbrained blog.
Remember this, it’s very important: we are not calling for Kony’s death.  We are asking for his arrest so that he can be tried and brought to justice. We do not believe in death, we believe in life.  To call for his death would be counterproductive because killing is what we are trying to stop.  And there are people who are praying diligently for Joseph Kony to meet Jesus after he is arrested, so please, join us and pray with everything you have for him to be brought to justice and for him to come to know Jesus.  We are changing the way the world views justice and with that, comes resistance.  Hold fast.  Think of our heroes who have died for what they believed in; MLK, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Steven.  Hold fast, because Jesus is for us and if God is for us, then who could be against us? 
Today I was at a high school and a student walked up to me, looked me in the eyes and said, “we will stop him” and walked away.  He’s right.  The world has new rules and we are in the midst of great change.  Dance with us, as change overtakes us and makes us beautiful.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

with childlike simplicity,

I don’t remember the kid’s name, or maybe he never actually told me.  I was in Fountain City, WI and it had just started to snow outside.  The town has a population of 700 people, give or take a few depending on the number of graduating seniors from the year before.  We were presenting out new film to the senior high at the school in the town, and the school actually held K-12.  And to add onto everything, we met a wonderful lunch lady named Barb who supplied my team with a very nostalgic plate lunch of tacos, complete with chocolate milk. 
The kid came up to me during when the presentation was going on when I had the job of standing at the merch table that was set up outside of the cafeteria.  It was the elementary school’s turn for lunch so many of the children would wonder past the table with wide eyes, far too intimidated to stop and talk to me.  Many of them would slow down when they reached the table and when I would say hello, they would either start giggling profusely and run away or stop dead in their tracks, gasp and back slowly away in terror.   But not this kid.  He was different and stopped to talk to me.  Actually, thinking back on it he walked up to the table with a strut that was full of confidence and innocence.  He stopped right in front of me, pointed to the table and asked, “what’s this all about?”  I told him that we were a group of people who were giving a presentation to the high schoolers.  He then asked, “what kind of presentation?  What do you guys do?”  Now, I love elementary kids and had the privilege to work with them when I was in Fayetteville, but I haven’t exactly had practice in trying to explain Invisible Children or justice to a second grader before.  So I opened my mouth and let the small amount of truth I know proceed.  I stumbled on my words but ended up saying something along these lines: “we are a group of people who are trying to stop a really bad man from kidnapping kids and making them hurt people.”  I can honestly say that I will never forget the look on his face.  He instantly lost the confidence that he had held and his face turned from a sheepish smile to a concerned frown.  He lowered his voice and just asked, “what?”  I tried to keep it light and we stood there in the hallway of his school and talked for another two or three minutes.  He and I both knew that it was too heavy for the moment and he turned to walk away.  But when he started walking, he stopped after two or three steps and turned around.  He looked at me in the eyes and when we made eye contact, his mouth formed that same smile he had approached me with and put his arm up, formed a peace sign with his fingers and said, “peace” as he started walking again down the hall.  In that moment, I learned something profound: injustice is not complicated, it’s simple… it’s wrong and there are no questions attached to that.  Seeing the heart of a second grader break might have been the thing that finally helped me understand how simple all of this really is.  Injustice is wrong, it has to be stopped and we are the ones to stop it.  There are no ifs, ands, and buts about it, it’s time to act.
I wonder why we all can’t understand like that kid understands.  Why do we see something wrong and write it off by saying it’s too complicated to solve?  “Oh, it’s just another problem.  There are thousands of them out in the world, why work on one?”  My question is, why not?  If there are a thousand problems in the world and I don’t work to fix the one I can, then there are still 1000 problems, instead of 999.  I have learned so much in the past two months of being with Invisible Children and I am so thankful for everything I have experienced.  The stories are many and beautiful and even thinking back about them, makes me laugh and smile thinking about how much change has accompanied me in the past 53 days.  But one of the main things I have learned is the importance of simplicity.  Sometimes things are complicated and I understand that and I am not too na├»ve to say it, but often things are so simple that we can’t see them for what they are.  Just like injustice is simple, so is my walk with Jesus.  Love God, love people and if I pursue those two things, then I will learn and live all that I need to. 
Maybe Jesus was onto something when he said that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become like children.  Maybe just maybe, when Jesus said that the greatest command was to love God and to love people, he wasn’t just suggesting. 
I have been on the road for just over a week (following a monumental month and a half in San Diego) and I have already experienced so much adventure.  It’s been an incredible journey thus far and I am so excited to see what happens over these next two months of being on tour.  I believe with everything that I am that we will see Joseph Kony be brought to justice and also see the youth of America be turned upside down with the story of humanity and being global citizens.  I am humbled to be a part of something that is truly shaping human history. 
Just like that kid left me with, I will also leave with you.  Peace.  It’s achievable and it’s real.  
Take my hand, let’s dance and let’s teach everyone else as well. 


Saturday, February 4, 2012

with tireless hope,

Writing blogs in itself isn’t hard; it’s starting the blog post that is actually the hard part.  Because the first paragraph sets the tone for the entire post, outlining what I will address in the next few paragraphs and setting the tone for overall feel.  Well friends, I need to start out with honesty.  There is no possible way I am going to be able to cram the last 26 days of my life into this post.  There is no way to go over everything I have learned, the people I have fallen in love with, and the way my heart has been shattered on a daily basis.   I live with 63 people and am experiencing beautiful and authentic community and I am learning what it means to love God and love people.  I am growing up.  I am falling in love with people and I am learning more and more dance steps every day.  I am going to try and make it short and outline some of the paint points of what Jesus has been teaching me. 
            26 days ago I got on a plane destined for San Diego and literally had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I’m not going to go deep into Invisible Children but know this folks, this organization has changed the way the world views justice and is continuing to make monumental strides on the grand stage of international justice.  I am humbled beyond belief to be a small part of this incredible family of world-changers.   I have learned so much about the programs that IC has on the ground and I can say with all honesty that I believe if Invisible Children didn’t exist, there is a great chance that the LRA would still be rampaging through Northern Uganda.  (If you would like more details, shoot me a Facebook message or email, I would love to chat about it… but for now that’s all I will say.)  I have never before been more sure that I am where I am supposed to be.  Jesus has made it clear this is where He has me.  In just under three weeks we will launch for tour and thus will begin my three month road trip adventure.  We will travel to nearly a hundred different high schools, colleges, middle schools, and places of worship to present our cause and to desperately plead with people to open their eyes to injustice and to be a voice for the oppressed.  This is the year of justice.  Get ready.
            With that all being said, I also have had an incredibly hard month, maybe the hardest month of my life.  There are many reasons for that, the main being that each day I feel like my heart is being broken a little bit more.  Every day I have to call people to ask them to help us set up a screening and I have to listen to people ignorantly tell me their not interested.  There is a huge chasm in my mind when I hear people say that they’re not interested in justice.  Especially when it’s a church.  Day in and day out I am explaining to people the conflict in Central Africa and how simple it is for us to get involved by just raising out voices to our government about helping our fellow man.  I plead with them over the phone, trying my very best to describe the faces that I have seen and the death that literally keeps my awake at night.  The fact that we live in a broken world has weighed heavily upon me the past few years since walking with Jesus but these last 26 days have driven that nail deep into my chest.  We have had hours upon hours of training about the conflict and the history of the LRA and of Joseph Kony and the images and stories whirl around in my mind constantly.  Millions of people have been displaced, thousands and thousands dead and so many more children made to fight as child soldiers and used as sex slaves.  It’s simple in my mind, so painfully simple… this has to stop.  Why isn’t that simple to others?  To the church? Truly, even as I am sitting here in this coffee shop writing this, I feel like some one is punching me continuously.  Evil is real.  I have no doubt and that both terrifies me and teaches me something very important.  If evil is real, then so is good.  If darkness is real, then so is light.  And light is so much more powerful.
            In the last 26 days the most important thing I have learned to do is to laugh.  At the same moment I am imaging Kony abducting a child and carrying him away from his mutilated family to the bush, I also see that same child after he escapes.  I see him laughing and learning to live again because hope exists.  I have seen passed the lie that since there’s evil and darkness, then I have to let myself mourn every second of every day.  If I give into that lie, then evil triumphs and I hear to tell you with everything that is in me, evil will never triumph because hope breathes, and hope’s name is Jesus.  I finally understand the words of Psalm 30: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed my with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.”  My heart aches but it also rejoices.  Jesus has given me another day to live and to dance, laugh, and fight with all that is in me for his deepest love, humanity. People.  There are 27 million people who are slaves and have no hope.  That is 27 million people I will be accountable to when I kneel before the King and give account of my life.  I am covered by the blood and grace of Jesus but that is no crutch or excuse to stay to myself, it’s my glory to stand and to wave the great flag of Freedom.  And to add onto those 27 million are billions other with no hope.  Billons other that don’t know Jesus, some who have never even heard.  Church, it’s time for us to wake up.  We have so much work to do.
            Last Saturday I was spending some time reading and praying and came across this prayer in Common Prayer by Shane Claiborne.  It’s simple and beautiful and perfect for what Jesus has been teaching me.

“Lord to laugh in the midst of trial and to rejoice in the darkest valley is another way of saying, ‘our hope is in you’.  Fill us with laughter and joy while we work for justice and strive for peace.”
            That is my prayer.  I am a living sacrifice and He has led me to justice and loving people.  See, I have been reading over 1 John since I’ve been here and John seems to have a pretty different stance on living as a Christ-follower than the majority of us do.  He makes it plain: Love God. Love People.  There’s nothing else to it.  Why do we insist on making it so complex?
            I am so glad to be here in San Diego and to be learning like I am, and I am so excited about hitting the road here in a couple weeks (I’ll try to blog right before I go).  But I also miss Fayetteville with an intense and deep hurt.  Jesus is showing me what it means to love and live and to move.  After I leave here and Lord-willing return to Fayetteville, I know I will miss this place and the people with the same intensity, and so on and so forth until the day my soul’s desire is finally met.  And I know that I will question, I will fight, and I will writhe in agony over injustice until that day as well. But for now I will follow and I will laugh and I will dance with tireless hope because that hope is alive.

(If you’d like more detailed information on how I’m doing personally and prayer requests, etc. send me your email address and I’ll add you to my email update list!)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

with everything,

“How else would you rather live than to have it hurt when you leave someplace?”

That quote could, in all actually, describe the rest of my life.  In less than 48 hours I will be getting on a plane destined for San Diego, CA and I will be setting off on the wildest 5 month adventure my young life has seen yet.  I will be getting ready to devote every second of every day to ending a war that terrorized Central Africa for 26 years and for every moment I am working, I will be directly affecting the world’s slavery count.  I know that it is where I am suppose to be, but I can’t help but think about my friends going back to Fayetteville in two weeks.  They will move back and get settled in their dorms, or apartments, and start back with school and I will not.  And I didn’t realize the weight of leaving, until today.  I was sitting in Starbucks working on the pre-arrival assignments for Invisible Children when it hit me… I’m not going back, I’m really not going back.  The longevity of that truth struck me hard and left me with not just a broken heart, but a crushed heart.  I haven’t realized how attached my heart was to Fayetteville and the people there until just about three hours ago.  It grieves my soul that I won’t be going back and that I won’t get to further invest in the incredible relationships I have been able, by the grace of God, to establish.  For years I have read Paul’s words in his letters to the churches and skipped over his desperate plea to return to them, because I never understood the pain of leaving a place and a people that you love so much.

This last week I had the privilege to go to Passion 2012 in Atlanta, GA.  It was an incredible four days.  45,000 students gathered to proclaim justice in the name of Jesus all around the world who are stuck in slavery.  I had heard many of the statistics before but never have I so deeply felt a need for justice as I did in those four days.  And as I sat in the seats next to my fellow world-changers, I became increasingly humbled throughout the conference because Jesus was allowing me to be involved in His great heart for justice next semester with IC.  There was one day when we sang a song that said, “Your love never fails, it never gives up on me. You never give up on me” and the words after those were, “On and on and on and on it goes, it overwhelms and overcomes my soul. I’ll never, ever, have to be afraid, because one thing remains.”  In those moments I saw the faces of the people who I will meet one day in Heaven, who will come up to me and tell me how because of my involvement with Invisible Children, they weren’t abducted by the LRA and allowed a chance to live and to accept Jesus.  I saw them, I saw their eyes and their mouths and their souls.  And just as I felt like my heart had had too much, Jesus gave me the precious gift of confirming my choice to leave Fayetteville to work with IC by sending His servant, Christine Caine to speak.  She talked about justice and how it is one with evangelism, about our need to act, and about a desperate and unshakable hope in the redeeming blood of Jesus.  Over those 30 minutes, God confirmed so much for me.  I know without any doubt that I am going where He is leading me.  I am so humbled to be a small part of fighting injustice, and this amazing chance to pursue God’s heart.  Because I realized something this week, those child soldiers that we’re advocating for, they are part of the total of the 27 million slaves in this world.  It’s time for me to act.

But even with that beautiful and vital confirmation, I still have a deep longing to go back to Fayetteville.  It hurts me to think about my friends moving on and about not being with the people I’ve got to share Christ with and so on and so forth.  But this is good.  I need to hurt, I need to mourn, I need to grieve.  If I’m living the way that Jesus desires for us to live, then doesn’t it make all of the sense in the world to have pain when we leave a place?

So with that being said I am more than excited for this journey and beg each of you to pray for my team and I as we promote justice and desperately plea with the youth of America to open their eyes.  Please pray for me to love and to give and to walk in justice and truth by the power of the Holy Spirit, every step of the way.  Although my heart will mourn leaving Fayetteville, I am confident by God’s grace that I will get to return to those people I love soon.  I will come back to the UofA and continue in my prayer to reach the students for Christ and to see great revival on that campus (and I’m continuing to pray for that hard, even in my absence).  

These next five months are going to be crazy and many people have asked me if I’ll be blogging or not and the answer to that is yes, but in a different form and fashion.  I will be blogging once a month.  Each month I will be sending an update to supporters and friends via email about what is going on (if you’d like to receive that update just shoot me your email address on Facebook or Twitter) and I will be also be writing a blog.  So please be on the lookout for the updates so that you can continue to labor with me and for me in prayer.  I covet each and every one of your prayers, my friends. 

On the second night of Passion, Hillsong United played a concert.  I had never seen them live before so I had no idea what to except.  The last song they sang was called, “With Everything” and what happened during those 10 minutes or so was nothing short of divine.  I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit like I never have before as I screamed out the anthem of our generation.  “With everything, we will shout for you glory.  With everything, we will shout for you praise.”  I danced and cried and shouted to Heaven the words of complete and utter surrender.  The place was literally shaking from the 45,000 voices rising in unison.  I will never forget the declaration we made in those moments.  I will never forget the cry… Freedom.

And with that being said, the next months my blogs will be on a consistent theme of “with (fill in the blank),”.  Each one highlighting what I am learning and how I am growing by being on the road and fighting justice on a daily basis. 

Although my heart is mourning leaving Fayetteville, it is eagerly looking forward to the journey ahead of me and I stand by God’s beautiful promise:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.” If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking of wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
-Isaiah 58:6-12

With everything, hallelujah.