Diving Deep: Where is God in the PICU

I spent all week writing this post, “Where is God in the PICU: Cases of Injustice,” which can be found in its entirety on my nursing blog.

There was a lot of deep wrestling here, and some vulnerability in sharing parts of me I’m not proud of, but the beauty is that through the uncovering we find the glorious extent of the goodness of God.

Dive deep with me. There is treasure worth finding.


How to Prevent a Code as a Nurse (and it’s not the way you think)

Hers was a story that would make you shake your head in disbelief just to hear the background, never mind what all actually went down on my shift with her. An unstable family, a turbulent social life, clear signs of personal distress. As the nurse, I listened to the story, and like a good nurse, my heart broke. This girl was in crisis precipitated by crisis, and this is the day where our lives crossed paths. I saw her, but she couldn’t see me. She was too sick. She couldn’t see my eyes of compassion. I didn’t know if she could hear me as I told her what I was going to do before I did anything, just in case it would startle her. Just in case she could still be startled. I wanted to still treat her like a human being, not just a really big problem that I really hoped to fix, so I addressed her by name and told her what I would be doing.

Her family told us how much they appreciated the way we loved her, and that’s when it hit me.

It’s easy to love from afar.

I didn’t actually know the girl. I knew bits of her story, and sure I felt compassion for her now, but it’s easy to love from afar and judge those who didn’t love up close. There is no question the world had not been kind to her, but neither had she been all that kind to the world. Brokenness responds with brokenness. I had to ask myself, knowing what I know of her story, if I had seen her on the streets two weeks ago, would I have shown compassion towards her then as I do now? Or would I have judged her, pulled my young children closer to me as she walked past, and whispered to my little ones, “You have to be really careful around people like that.”

It makes me think, the way I as a person treat a young broken girl on the street could very well be the way for me to prevent coding this young broken girl as her nurse. If I could let her see eyes of compassion while she could still see me, hear me call her by name instead of hear me whisper warnings about her to my little ones. This could very well be the way.

It’s easy to love from afar. God, help me to love up close.

They’ll Always Need People Like Us

I was initially so resistant to the idea. I knew people did it all the time, but it wasn’t something that I ever grew up seeing or experiencing in my own immigrant family. Lack of personal experience wasn’t the only deterrent, though. I personally just felt really uncomfortable with it. I remember hearing a quote years ago, “I would rather live a life that is closer to the oppressed than to the oppressor.” To give into this felt to me that I was siding more closely with the oppressor, the advantaged, the “haves” rather than the “have nots.” Plus, the overachiever in me felt somewhat ashamed at the thought of it, like it implied I was simply failing to do my own proper duties at home.

The husband had suggested hiring a cleaning lady for one or two days to do an extremely thorough cleaning of our home before the baby came. I knew there were certain things that we honestly never touched, ever since we moved in 1.5 years ago. We never dusted the blinds, never truly scrubbed the shower or the kitchen floor tiles. We did superficial cleanings at best but life always felt hectic and other tasks always took precedence. It just never mattered enough to me to tackle these nitty-gritty, time-consuming chores. It was the nesting-driven need for a clean home, and my current physical limitations despite having all this free time on maternity leave, that finally prompted me to give in.

Friends recommended her, so we had her over to first take a look at our home. She was polite, somewhat shy initially but very personable. Her English was limited but I spoke her native language, which helped put her… well, both of us, a bit more at ease. She complimented our home, and then my husband asked me to ask her about the price. She shrugged somewhat awkwardly and I couldn’t read how she wanted me to proceed. We asked how much our friends paid her, and while I felt they paid her well, I wanted to be extra generous. It is back-breaking work, typically for very little money. I calculated a price per hour that was a few dollars more per hour than what our friends were paying her. I told her a lump sum for two days’ worth, and again, her reaction was hard to read. Was she displeased? Was she trying not to be overly enthusiastic? Did she simply not understand if it was a good price or not? I tried to be confident and relaxed about our offer, but inwardly it was terribly awkward. I felt that the more obvious my discomfort, the more I would actually accentuate the socioeconomic differences, and the more I would insult her as a result.

She came to work on the first day, after taking the bus for 1.5 hours to reach our home. She amazed me with her speed, her diligence, and her level of detail. She came here years ago to give her children in her home country a better life, after their father left her for another woman. She asked for cash, not a check. I did not ask why.

I struggled to sit still in the living room as she cleaned. I felt guilty, even though it was obvious at almost 9 months pregnant that I was simply unable to do much beyond light housework. I was compulsive about trying to find ways to make myself busy. I think I might have insulted her when I tried to start vacuuming a corner that I had not asked her to clean.

It was both a rather complicated and a very simple experience.

It was complicated. There were political, social, economic, cultural, and racial issues that shaped her life, that brought her to our home for this one day. She was my employee for the day and I did not feel comfortable in my position, because she was also my hero, and she was a tremendous blessing.

It was simple. She not only did what she needed to do for herself and her family to survive, but she took pride in her work. When my husband emerged from his office in the late afternoon, she asked, “How do you like my work? I tried to do as much as I could while I was here.” It was simple. She came to do her job, to do it well, and we simply needed to pay her well, treat her respectfully, and say thank-you.

But no. It just wasn’t that simple. I keep thinking of what another immigrant friend said to me when we worked together years ago conducting research in nursing homes. He had been a Certified Nursing Assistant in long-term care facilities for many years, and he worked magic through his compassion and strength with the frail elderly. He took excellent care of them – toileting them, changing them, feeding them, helping them exercise. He commented to me once, “This society, they’ll always need people like us. People who are willing to do the dirty work for cheap. It’s ok. I know that’s just how it is.”

I feel humbled, I feel guilty, I feel both thankful and ashamed to be on the privileged side. It’s as simple as just needing and appreciating help at nine months pregnant. And it’s just not that simple at all.

Why I Must be Thankful for What I Do Not Have

I woke up grumpy on Thanksgiving Day. The dog gnawed incessantly all night at his hot spot and I hadn’t the heart (nor the courage) to curse him with the cone of shame. So I wrapped his tail with a light towel to cover the hot spot. He’d wake with a start after an hour to peel it off and gnaw again. The sound shot shivers through my spine and woke me upright. We repeated this numerous times. Between this battle and an uncomfortable dream, I woke up grumpy, irritable, far from sentimental, less than thankful.

I celebrate Thanksgiving Day not primarily because my heart naturally overflows with gratitude, but because I need to practice expressing gratitude more. I mastered complaining early in life, on my first day outside of my mother’s womb to be exact. I am ashamed of my ability on some days to walk away from acutely ill patients after 12 hours at work, feeling full of frustration at their neediness rather than deep gratitude for my own health and ability to serve them. Oh my soul. I celebrate Thanksgiving Day because I need to practice expressing gratitude more.

I need to practice gratitude for the basics, which I can really only even call “basic” because I still take them for granted that much, forgetting that I fall within the top 3% of the wealthiest in the world, simply because I have them.  Salvation, life, health, shelter, a car, food, belongings, education, a job, a dear husband, dear family, dear friends. Each of these alone merit a lifetime of thanksgiving.

I need to practice gratitude for the things I do not have. Perhaps they would incline my heart that much more towards vanity, and distance me all the more from those beloved friends in poorer countries who showed me once what a purer contentment looks like. Perhaps they would crowd my life and attention with their need for maintenance, stealing my energies from things more eternal. I am not currently suffering without those things. What more do I truly need?

I need to practice gratitude for the challenges and hardships that have come. They teach me about the need I have for my community to save me from a lone island mentality. They teach me about my weaknesses so that I do not die a more painful death from my pride. They magnify the mercy, comfort, hope and compassion of my Savior who Himself entered into our suffering in order to ultimately deliver us from it one day. They give me perspective to save me from a shallow, superficial existence.

I need to practice gratitude for the forms of suffering that I have not personally experienced. I need to practice this so that I might actively remember there are others who are enduring tragedies, which I am called to do something about in all my comfort and power and wealth, as an expression of the hands and feet and heart of a loving God. I need to practice this so that my spirit does not become overly entitled. I need to practice this in hopes that others might practice it with me as well.

I celebrate Thanksgiving Day because I need to practice expressing gratitude more. Won’t you celebrate and practice along with me this day, this season, and in this upcoming year.

my belly says no but my soul says yes

I like free things. It’s so easy, so convenient. Really? I can just have it? It always feels a little funny, a little cheaper, however, when the giver of the gift says, “Oh, it’s no big deal. I got it for free too.” They care less, and suddenly, I care less.  Oh, that’s cool, thanks.

After embarking on my test run of this photo project to raise funds towards fighting child trafficking, I was overjoyed by the requests that began to come in for prints. People have been so supportive and so excited to contribute to this amazing organization, to this incredibly important cause. ZOE staff will go to the ends of the earth to rescue children in great poverty who face the potential of an otherwise horrific future of physical and sexual slavery. This video of my dear friends in Thailand as they carry out a child rescue brings tears to my eyes every. single. time. Every aspect of the video is real. I’ve been exhilarated to see how this hobby that is so much more than a hobby of mine could suddenly become something that could also fight a terrible evil in the world on a very practical level. I’m so thankful for my full-time job, which allows me to do this project with no strings attached. People can pay my suggested price for the print, but they can pay less if they need or donate more if so desired, given that all of the proceeds will go towards ZOE Children’s Home, either way. I have the joy of sharing my photography, and serving as a glad conduit for the fundraising.

As deep as my joy has been with this project thus far, however, there was still curiously something that did not feel quite right. Something felt incomplete.

It felt too easy. Selling the prints doesn’t require a whole lot of effort from me, just a little coordination. Then I get to write the final check from this test run to ZOE, which will be wonderful. But it’s just been so convenient. It hasn’t really cost me anything. I think I still feel like this rich person doling something out to the poor, something that’s not even mine for that matter. The sense of personal disconnect unsettles me.

My heart began to burn. God’s conviction, His gentle but deep push. Match the donations, dollar for dollar. Feel the pinch in your own pocket. See again how rich you really are, how you think you don’t have a lot to give, but you actually do if you’re willing to forego a little of your own extra indulgences here and there. Taste even just the smallest hint of feeling your own financial resources challenged. Learn how to identify yourself, even just a little bit, with those who have so little.

Honestly speaking, it’s not as if I’m taking any real financial risk by matching donations at this point in the project. I can match dollar for dollar and not worry about where my next meal will come from. But the conviction to do even this much already reveals how much selfishness still exists in me. There is reluctance in me. I crave the fancier meal that the extra money could buy if I kept it. Which is exactly why I need to give. Somehow it means a bit more, to ZOE and I think to me as well, for this to cost me something too. I feel as though I’m experiencing for the first time in a while what it means to actually live out the Gospel, to practice a little of what I preach. That God loves the broken, that Jesus saved me to give me a new heart, a new mind, a new purpose, to live out His love through who I am and what I have so that others might know that His love is real. That they might know that His love is tangible and practical in the face of something like human trafficking.

I’ve got a feeling He’s looking to push me more in this area. And I’ve got a feeling this work of His Spirit in my heart is at least partly about loosening money’s stranglehold over me, and flipping it up on its head. Taking hold of money to use it for all the good that it has the potential to do.

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the heavy burdens,

To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,

Your healing shall spring forth speedily;

And your righteousness shall go before you;

The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

Isaiah 58:6-9

Taken in a remote Thai village. Photo credit: Stephen Sato

A Terrible Evil and a Multiplied Joy

It was my thing. My therapy. My place to retreat to when I was empty of anything meaningful to give to others, and needed to take in by way of my camera lens what was simple and good again.

I have never had an overwhelming desire to make anything professional out of my photography.  I was already receiving all that I wanted from it. The few paid jobs I have done, while certainly enjoyable in their own right, have not given me the same kind of satisfaction that I receive from my spontaneous, quiet, unpressured walks exploring old and new places alike. Perhaps this is partly due to the expectations of other people that come along with paid work. It was wonderful to have something I could do purely for the personal joy I could gain from it.

The thought that came to me out of nowhere one evening was, then, very unexpected. But incredibly compelling. If I were to offer my prints for sale, and give the proceeds to fight child trafficking through ZOE Children’s Homes, an organization that my husband and I know and love deeply…what would happen? What could happen?

I had to give it a test run. I quickly assembled a collection of some of my favorite photos, and posted the album on Facebook with the question, would anyone buy these in order to help fight child trafficking? One by one, the requests began to trickle in with so much support, so much encouragement. This test run is still in a very early stage, but there is already an amount raised that can do a tremendous amount of good in a place where the US dollar can go so much farther than a $4 latte.

Then the temptation came. Keep some of the profit for yourself. The temptation was strong. Do some good with it, but hey, keep some for yourself too. Nothin’ wrong with that. True, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But I’ve got a full-time job and I’ve got everything I need. Any excess income would just go towards buying more excess. And I don’t need any more excess. These kids at high risk of being sold into the human trafficking market due to the vicious cycle of poverty, however, do need safe shelter. Food. A healthy, loving environment. With Christ as my example of what it looks like to give oneself away in love for those who are broken, I am convicted and therefore making myself publicly accountable that anything I gain from these photography sales must go 100% towards helping others. The love of Christ compels me.

Suddenly, my joy in my photography has multiplied. Tremendously. The vision runs deeper, the purpose is greater. I understand Christ’s words a little bit more now: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Edmund Burke once said, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” I want to stop doing nothing. I want to do my part, for His glory. I think this could be the beginning of something kind of amazing.

danger in twenty five miles

The middle class is a tricky category to fall into. You are not poor enough to have the tight confines of an extremely restricted budget – spending to survive with anything more hardly being an option. You do not feel you are rich enough to be associated with the superficial, self-absorbed Real Housewives of Timbuktu. You work hard, you pay your taxes, pay your bills, and you try to enjoy some nice things here and there. Nothing too over the top, most of the time.

But I think there is a very real danger of then just doing things, buying nice things, and avoiding the hard things, just because we can. The danger is in the deep, sharp claws lurking in the corner of Pottery Barn, disguised in pretty candlelight and flowers. I rarely go there but I had a gift card, and could feel myself being wooed, beckoned, seduced into it all. Start with decorating the living room, but if you’re going to do that, then you want to redo the dining room, in which case the bathrooms need touching up. And suddenly the bedroom looks awfully dull and outdated too. Do it. You can afford it. Others can’t. But you can.

“This place is dangerous,” I said to the stylish but not overly uptight gentleman at the register.

“That’s what I hear. But we’re safe. We don’t bite. Come in, come in.”

I remember an interview with Bill Clinton shortly after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. A reporter asked him, “Why did you do it?” His simple but unsettling reply: “Because I could.” It wasn’t that he could because he was the President of the United States. She was there. She was not saying no. His ego, fed by a woman’s eyes who said he was everything he longed to be, edged out his conscience. His loins burned away the red flags of self-restraint. Do it. You can afford it. Others can’t. But you can.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have lived most of my life fighting to learn how to be nicer to myself, fighting to learn that it is ok to rest from my labor, my striving, and enjoy the grace and blessings that God intends for us to enjoy. But when I walk into Pottery Barn and feel the strong, intentionally designed pull on not just my wanting but my sense of needing these things, I have to wonder what that is, where it comes from.

I think part of our susceptibility to that insidious pull comes from the fact that we are not, on a visceral level, entirely convinced that our world is much bigger than the 25-mile radius that encircles the majority of our days. Within my 25-mile radius, I would say most homes have some pretty Pottery Barn purchases. I’ve got to keep up, because isn’t it a part of who I am, who I am becoming as a working, middle-class woman?

Then, for a moment, I look at the fine print. “Made in Thailand.”

And then I remember the men, women and children whom I spent a summer with in Chiang Mai. I remember pledging to them that I would not forget their stories. How they fought the cycles of poverty so that their children would not have to see sex slavery as their only option for an income, for survival. How the orphans traveled unbelievable journeys to be free from abuse and the threat of the sex trafficking industry. How they didn’t need Pottery Barn to feel settled, content, respected, valued. They needed safety, love, and people who would hear their cries and advocate on their behalf.

They feel so far away now, in both time and space. But then I look at the fine print, and here they are, in my 25-mile radius. Reminding me. Humbling me. Asking me to think, not full of cynical criticism, but humbly and critically again about how I am letting my 25-mile radius reduce my vision and my ambitions to something so much smaller than what God ever intended for my life. Hopefully they are still a part of who I am, and who I am becoming as a working, middle-class woman.

What if I were to turn from my sin, because that’s ultimately what it is, sin. What if I start to do the less selfish, rather than the more selfish things, because the grace of God in my life now says that I can? It could be dangerous. And it could be really, really good.

awkward fine dining and the question worth asking

I am an awkward fine diner. I never know which fork is for the salad, I always drink from my neighbor’s water glass, and I’m pretty sure I’ve used my butter knife to try cutting my steak at least once. I’m an awkward fine diner because I never feel sophisticated enough to be in those restaurants, with my knock-off purse and my substandard dress among the chic and refined.

But if you put me in a hole-in-the-wall in the middle of a run-down neighborhood, I sure feel fabulous. Rich. Respectable. Uncomfortably so.

This unspoken hierarchy in the context of public establishments and business transactions is a curious one. We may not even be fully aware that it exists and that it affects our expectations, behavior and reactions. But it does. In a restaurant, we look at the décor, the prices, the reputation. We form quick judgments about the appearance and perhaps the accent of the person who is serving us. We behave and interact accordingly, to at least some subtle – or not so subtle – degree.

I saw a Facebook posting recently by someone who experienced what was unarguably very poor customer service, in any context. The cashier had cursed and thrown paper at this acquaintance of mine. In response to this person’s Facebook post describing the incident, however, another person commented, “They work those jobs for a reason.” What reason is that? And what gives any outsider the right to automatically assume with such confidence that only a certain type of person with only a certain level of competency, morality, and worth, would end up working a customer service job in a casual, run-of-the-mill restaurant?

I worked at a coffee shop while I was in nursing school for my Masters in Nursing at a well-regarded university. As I poured coffee and fetched napkins and mopped floors, I could feel that unspoken stigma towards me and towards my coworkers, many of whom were quite brilliant. I have to confess that I felt a strong need to explain that I was only working that job in passing, on my way to my Masters. See, I have bought into that mindset as well. I’m guilty too. But I hope I’ve changed and am still changing for the better since my time in that coffee shop. Because I’ve seen that for many people who work “those jobs,” their reason for being there is because they are incredibly hard-working, sacrificial, and humble. Some have travelled unimaginable roads that I am not strong enough to endure, in order to secure “those jobs.” They are their family’s heroes, their community’s heroes. And they serve some people who come in with their fancy cars and poor coffee shop behavior, day after day after day. Those friends of mine are my very misunderstood heroes. Not all people in “those jobs” are worth-less. And not all people in the CEO chair behave any better by virtue of their job title, nor are they worth more.

Why we have allowed this curious aspect of shame to pervade even our dining experiences and day-to-day business transactions is a question worth asking. I am an awkward fine diner trying not to feel ashamed about my lack of class. I am a blessed middle class working woman trying to remember not to shame others who very often work much, much harder than me, receive much less in return, but deserve so much more.

How about you? Have you ever witnessed or been a part of a dining experience or business transaction that became very awkward because of this aspect of shame? 

why I do not care about social justice

I can not and should not tell his story. Not in the way that he could. This former gang member had just finished giving our class of nursing students a tour of Homeboy Industries, the amazing ministry to at-risk, formerly gang-involved youth, and the recently incarcerated, headed by Father Gregory Boyle. To conclude the tour, he sat down with us in a small room and told us of his life. Grew up with a father addicted to heroin and an older brother heavily involved in gangs. Hoped as a child to experience what it was like to have a child of his own, before he would probably die around age 18 if he was lucky. Ended up in the hospital one time after a bad scuffle, and felt the pain of the wounds not from his latest altercation, but from the judgmental comments and looks of scorn from the nurses who took one look at his tattoos, heard his unsophisticated language, and thereby deemed him worthless, no good, society’s trouble. He had grown accustomed to those comments and looks from everyone else in the community. But he didn’t expect them to come from the nurses too. The healers. The caregivers. Them too.  Huh.

All he wanted was another chance at life. On so many levels.

He pled with us through tears, and so I vowed with tears, to never look at these young men and women through such a dark lens. I believe so deeply in social justice, I said to myself. I kept this vow faithfully in my head and in my heart.

Until one of these young people showed up in the room that I was assigned to for my nursing shift.

The language.

The music. The very, very loud music. How can that be therapeutic?

The simple questions about this disease that my proud, educated self was so tempted to shun.

I saw my prejudices emerge from a hidden place that I was so sure did not exist in me. I saw my impatience grow with each ring of the nurse call light, but he started and ended every request with please and thank-you, respectively. Through the rough language, the very, very loud music, and the questions that came from a place that never afforded him a chance to learn, shone a heart of gold. This patient humbled me with his repeated expressions of deep, sincere gratitude for my help. Deep gratitude for life, for family, for everything that meant anything to him.

I realized that I can’t say I truly care about social justice until I learn to care about the actual people who need it the most. Until I learn to serve them with a level of humility and gratitude that can match even a tenth of theirs. Until I learn to talk with them in their language. Until I’m even just willing to talk with them, period, rather than cut short conversations because they make me too uncomfortable, with them, and moreso, with myself.

Maybe. Just maybe, one day, I will learn to care about social justice.

death by default

“And they have this word they like to use…. ‘transformative.’ That’s it… They say it’s been transformative. And then they leave.

…Oh, he said. ‘So people leave because they’re frightened of who they’re becoming if they stay.’”

– Reblogged from a post by Chris Heuertz

I’ve walked through some of the slums in Tijuana, Mexico as a young high school student. Clearing some brush near a church where we were helping to build a wall, I saw one of the locals pull a dirty pillow out from under a pile of leaves and lay himself down with a tired but content sigh. Appalled, I saw germs. Relieved, he saw rest. I had the opportunity to work with the Red Cross in the Dominican Republic among hurricane-affected communities during my public health years. We visited the border between the DR and Haiti one morning, and the shantytowns that still stood were a good sign compared to some of the vacant hillsides where former communities had been emptied into the river by the hurricanes. I spent a few weeks in Thailand with ZOE Children’s Homes and was overwhelmed by the joy, life and generosity of these precious children who had once been at high-risk of being sold into human trafficking, but were now thriving in a safe, loving environment.

Transformative seems like a good word to describe these experiences. And then I read this post by Chris Heuertz, International Executive Director of Word Made Flesh, and my heart is unsettled because I have to wonder just how transformed I really was or am.  I am unsettled – for the good – by the testimony of friends who have had the courage to uproot their lives in order to live out their convictions about genuinely loving those who are less well-off. Unsettled by conversations with Chia about how we still live out of a certain place of prescribed American comfort despite all that we verbally espouse about wanting to live closer to the oppressed than the oppressor. Unsettled by Bonnie’s eyes when she describes her work among the disabled population in Mali, looks at me and asks the burning question, “What are we doing here as Christians in America?”

I find that I still fundamentally operate out of a certain mode of default that defines my assumptions about how life is and how it ought to be for me (with emphasis on the “for me”…that is probably a hint to the root problem); a certain mode of default that subtly shapes my everyday choices.

Because let’s see. On most days, my first thoughts in the morning still veer towards something like this: I want to look cute and wear a pretty necklace to go with a cute outfit to go with cute shoes. If we expect guests this week, I want people to come over and admire my lovely home with everything just-so. White tea and ginger soap from Bath and Body Works in the bathroom, classy décor, a television that displays sports and movies in the highest definition possible. Wow, this is nice, thank you for having us over. If I have dinner plans this week, what fancy restaurant should I find on Yelp? How is their food, and will it be worth the $50 I pay for it? Yes, as long as they serve me well, refill my water glass and make the plate really, really pretty. Never mind that it’s just a few small bites… it’s so pretty. What slum in Tijuana? What vacant hillside in the Dominican Republic? What orphan in Thailand? I’ve got too much on the surface to think about already. No room to go deeper. This is my everyday default.

I suspect that the problem is not so much my wanting of these things, as it is my deeper sense of these things as the norm of life and my entitlement to them.  I have to wonder, whose voices tell me these things are the norm, and what makes those voices right?  After all, the voices typically come from other people in a similar socioeconomic stratum as me. I used to love watching the TLC show “What Not to Wear.” Makeovers are fun and I do think there is something powerful about people discovering how beautiful they really are. But something just doesn’t feel right about a society that casually flips channels between the Nightly News featuring stories about the drought in Somalia, and reality TV shows that hand out $5,000 left and right to improve a person’s fashion sense, without batting an eyelash. Please understand…I don’t write this to shame my middle-class friends who are making a godly impact in their sphere of influence and raising godly children here in America. But I just have to ask the questions…because I certainly don’t hear the orphan in Thailand telling me that this is the default by which everyone should or is even able to live by. ZOE’s tagline in reference to those at risk for being sold into human trafficking is “Fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves.” If we don’t fight for them, who will? Has God not called us to more than just living by default…which I propose, is death by default.

The dictionary tells me that one context for the word “default” is when things occur (or rather, don’t occur) through the

 lack of positive action rather than conscious choice.

This post is hard to write because it puts the issues on the table and begs the question, “So…what are you going to do about it?” The issues are complex and controversial, moral, political, emotional, spiritual. I have no easy answers. There are none. This post can be endless. But before we even start looking for answers, I think we need to break out of our default. Revisit and have the courage to sit with the hard questions.

What is our default that we have gotten so comfortable with that we give it no conscious choice?

We need a paradigm shift, and we need it to be transformative.


For those who are interested, here are a couple of books that have shaped some of these thoughts. Time to re-read these again.

The Good News About Injustice” by Gary Haughen

Gary Haughen, who once worked as the Officer in Charge of the UN investigation into the Rwandan genocides, reminds us that we, as God’s hands and feet here on earth, are the good news about injustice. Just as God sent His Son to actively come against all that is wrong in the world, so Christ sends us to continue living out His missional love. Haughen also reminds us that “evil prevails when good men do nothing.”

An Arrow Pointing to Heaven“: biography of Rich Mullins by James Bryan Smith

Rich Mullins was a successful, well-known Christian musician who gave himself a salary, living on just what he needed. He asked his manager to allocate the rest to various organizations that served the less fortunate in the world. He never knew how much he really made. His was an intentional life.