The Power of a Smile

Here in Haiti there is so much need everywhere it is overwhelming…  hard to know what would truly help.

Not sure if I helped much during my time at the orphanage, but at least I helped put a few smiles on their faces.

Kiddos

I taught the kid sitting next to me in the picture above the song, “God is so Good, He’s so Good to Me” and he loved it and sang it over and over and over (with actions), it was funny.  I tried explaining to him what the words meant in Creole but felt bad later when I realized I had translated it as, “God is so Tasty, He’s so Tasty to Me.”  Oh well, still kinda Biblical from that verse, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”

Anyways, he loved singing and even taught me a few Christian Creole songs too.  He would start by teaching me the English words and then the Creole ones.  He was smart!

ps  Here’s an interesting article by Steve Saint on poverty:

http://projecting-poverty-where-it-doesnt-exist

I just finished Steve’s book titled Walking His Trail: Signs of God along the Way and thought it was good, I recommend it. Always love hearing stories of God working in the lives of others.

pps See my flip-flops in the picture above???  They are getting a hard workout, but still holding up well.  I’ve seen a ka-jillion people wearing flip flops here so I really fit in. Well, at least my feet do.

The Power of a Soul

I was going to continue this series with The Power of a Smile, The Power of Sin and perhaps the Power of My Brother Seth.  However, since those posts seem slow in coming I’ll summarize by saying they’re all three quite powerful, in their own way:

Smiles can make old people look new; Sin can make new people look old; and Seth can speak 3 languages, run a thousand miles, and makes me laugh perhaps more than anyone else I know.

So far, in this series we have:

What do they all have in common?  They all have impact on and can affect a human being.  Cars transport our physical bodies, songs affect our emotions, sentences affect our thoughts, and stories affect our lives as we contemplate the examples of others.  And “space” is symbolic of all things limiting to us.

What is a soul?  Webster says, “The immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.”  Basically, our soul is US, our LIFE.  The word in the New Testament for soul (psuchē) is even often translated life. 

Here is the first time soul is used in the Bible:

Genesis 2:7 says, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

The concept and definition of the words soul and spirit overlap, but as I understand it the word soul (as used in the Bible) seems to be broader, often referring to the “life” portion of a human being (some say our mind, will, and emotions) whereas spirit seems to be used more specifically in reference to the non-material counterpart to our body.  The word spirit is pneuma in the Greek which literally means breath or breeze.

Whether a human has an immaterial, immortal soul/spirit or is rather completely material has been cause for much debate.  The view of Philosophical Materialism (that matter is all there is, and any perceived consciousness is merely a result of matter acting on matter) dates before Christ to big-name Greeks like Epicurus and Democritus.  In more recent times Karl Marx is well-known for having broadened and refined the theory.  Even Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe humans have a soul.

For reference, here are some verses that use the words soul and spirit.

So here is the culminating point to this post and series:

The power of a soul is that it can impact God. 

How?

Through entering into relationship with God.

Relationship is mutual communication. If I’m not communicating with someone, I’m not in a relationship with them (I know this). When we communicate with God, this is called prayer.

Through prayer we can actually impact God!

How?

Not by force, (because he’s a ka-jillion times stronger) but by influence, as his friend.

I’ll leave off with these thoughts from James:

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”  (James 5:16-18)

The Power of Stick Shift

I got a surprise when I left work the other day: My car wouldn’t start.   The battery was dead because I’d left my headlights on at lunch.

Who should I call?  How long would it take for Dad to show up?  How long would it take for Mallikar or Pat to show up?  How long would it take for –

Dang, I don’t have time for this, I have a Bible Study to attend. 

What were my other options?  Besides prayer, of course, I didn’t think of that until now.

Then I remembered something I’d read recently from John Eldredge,

“…Adam is captured best in motion, doing something.  His essence is strength in action.  That is what he speaks to the world.  He bears the image of God, who is a warrior.  On behalf of God, Adam says, ‘God will come through.  God is on the move.’  That is why a passive man is so disturbing.  His passivity defies his very essence.  It violates the way he bears God’s image.  A passive man says, ‘God will not come through.  He is not acting on your behalf.’”

Yes, that entire quote flitted through my brain, and I then said to myself with a fierce resolve, “Far be it from me to be construed a passive man.”

I'm not the only one who has tried this.Pushing my car out of its’ stall, I lined it up pointing toward an open stretch of parking lot.  I’ve done this before and you have to get it going faster than you think. 

The power of stick shift is that you can (theoretically) start this type of car mechanically by getting it rolling really fast in neutral and then popping the clutch.

After making sure the runway was all clear for takeoff, I leaned on the trunk and give it an oomph.  Did I mention I was wearing dress clothes?  It started moving slowly, then faster. 

Was anyone watching?  I checked that I was still heading straight, then really poured it on – soon literally sprinting behind the Honda!  Uh-oh, looks like we’re gonna hit that Ford in about twenty yards.

Then it was time to get back in the vehicle, but I found it hard to catch up with a car already flying along as fast as I could run.

With an extra burst of speed I did a Jason Bourne and dove into the driver’s seat and quick popped the clutch: glut-gluuuut-gluuuuuuuuuut—-  silence. stopped.  At least I didn’t hit the Ford, near miss.

So that didn’t work.  But I didn’t necessarily expect it to.  My main plan was to cause enough commotion that someone would have mercy on me and offer a jump.

Sure enough, moments later a very large shiny SUV came lumbering around the corner.  The drivers side tinted window cracked open and a pair of eyes peeked over the top. 

A high pitched ladies voice emitted, "Do you need a jump?" 

I tell the eyes, "No, I just push cars around parking lots for excerci – yes, I could use a jump, thanks for stopping by!" 

The window rolled down a bit further.  A friendly enough face appeared.

The friendly face asked, "I don’t have jumper cables, do you?" 

Yes, yes, I live by the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” Just pull your car around, thanks…  but see here, my jumper cables won’t reach that far, you’ll have to maneuver behemoth SUV a tad closer – Augh! not that close!

In no time flat I was on my way.  I’m very thankful for such a charitable co-worker, she was quite helpful.  A real live Samaritan. 

The Power of Space, Part 2

From the mail bag……  here is an excerpt from a letter I received in response to my post yesterday:

I’m not convinced that God tells us to go find misery and poverty in the world and then fix it. That would ascribe a God-like omnipotence and limitless resources to us. The Samaritan wasn’t traveling along the backroads trying to find someone he could minister to, he was more likely going about his day when he saw a chance to do good. Even most missionaries require financial support from churches back home since ministering full-time in and of itself is not economically sustainable.

This is a great point.  In fact, it gets to the heart of a very puzzling issue to me. 

The Teacher of the Law asked, "Who is my neighbor?"  to which Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan.  As I understand it, the point of that story was that our neighbors are those, "within our physical sphere of influence."  Those we are in contact with in, "real life."  Those we come across in, “our daily duties.”

Back in the olde days, this concept was easily understood because there was no other option.  Now technology has changed all that.  In the olde days, it was obvious the influence of one person could only reach so far.  Our eyes could only see so far, our voices could only carry so far, our arms could only reach so far.  It’s interesting how we were made in the image of God in His likeness, but only given the tiniest fraction of His power.  Even with the aid of technology, we will always be limited by time and only being able to think about one thing at once (unless you’re female and can think about 4-5 things at once).

Now though, through Skype, my voice and presence can travel thousands of miles.  I’ve video-chatted live with my brother in Afghanistan as if he were in the same room with me.  And my “arms” are much longer today too.  With a click of a button I can lift a child out of poverty.  Or support an indigenous missionary.  After watching real-time footage of the earthquake disaster in Japan, I can provide real-time support by donating to the Red Cross.

As an aside, when we think of people having influence today, we think primarily of mass media.  Through radio and TV one person can reach millions.  I heard there were 2 billion people watching the Middleton-Prince William wedding.  But have you ever thought about how Jesus impacted the entire world but was never on TV or involved in any type of mass media?  In fact, it is likely he never talked to or communicated with anyone outside the sphere of his immediate physical presence.  We have no indication he ever even wrote a single letter.  Jesus restricted himself to face-to-face contact with folks.  That alone could probably teach us a lot.

But here’s where it gets tricky:  If my neighbor is that person who is directly within my sphere of influence, what happens when my sphere of influence is suddenly increased – like it has been through technology over the last 20 years – to include the entire globe? 

Now an immediate problem arises.  If my responsibility extends to everyone within my sphere of influence, and if my influence has now exponentially increased to include billions of people, it is clear I’m spread too thin.  If I tried helping everyone, in about five minutes I’d be wiped out financially.  Then I’d be destitute myself, and was that really the point?

On the flip side, if I throw my hands in the air and say, "I can’t help everyone, so I’m only going to help those people I come into contact with in my day-to-day life," that fails to take into account that technology has also conveniently stratified my particular socio-economic class into a layer where desperate physical needs are all but non-existent.

It may be instructive to note that Jesus took his "physical presence" to places with high need.  But it’s also instructive that he apparently lived a fairly normal life in Nazareth until he was around 30 years old.  So go figure.

When I was in Haiti, I saw a number of people in public who were sick or injured.  I remember passing a kid sitting outside who had a large swollen jaw and a bandage wrapped around his head.  Another kid had a gross looking swollen eye that probably needed attention.  I saw a cripple.  I saw a teenager so emaciated I was sure he was about to die (he was in his home, but should have been in ICU).  I saw several sick kids lying on the ground partially clothed or even naked.  None of them were in a hospital or anything.  At one point I remember thinking, "This must have been how it was in Jesus’ day where the lame and blind and sick were everywhere, out in the open, and would gather around Jesus to be healed." 

In our suburbs, there is pain, injury, and sickness too.  But it is all sanitized and hidden away behind a sterile environment.  For the worst cases, paramedics in sharp uniforms transport the patient to hospitals where they are attended to by trained nurses, competent doctors, and given access to only the best diagnostic equipment, drugs, and latest surgery techniques.  When death comes here in the States, it is usually in a drugged state.  In Haiti, life is much more raw.  If something bad happens, you might just die.  Right there where it happened even.

I can drive myself crazy trying to analyze all the ins and outs of what exactly I should be doing to make the most impact.  At the end of the day, as a Follower of Jesus I have to come back to realizing my salvation does not hinge on what I do (or who I help), but rather on putting my faith in Him for my salvation.  I trust Jesus, as Lord of my life, to lead me on the path He has for me.  Whether that path is here in the emotionally and spiritually hurting suburbs, or a location with needs more raw and earthy, I know there is plenty of work to do in either place.  The primary thing is to follow Christ’s leading, and produce fruit where I’m planted.

I’ll end this post with another excerpt from the letter I quoted at the beginning,

The thing is, there are so many counter-arguments to any position that it is easy to become paralyzed by it. In fact, you could argue that the point of helping poor people is more to be obedient to God than to actually alleviate poverty, so perhaps it’s best to ignore counter-arguments to any one course of action and simply do something as intelligently as you can.