The End of Extreme Poverty IS coming. It’s a question of when… not if.

My Take: The church can end extreme poverty – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

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A Lesson from God on the Pumpkin Farm

Autumn in the Midwest brings one of my favorite outings of the year – a trip to the Pumpkin Farm.  There isn’t much that’s better.  A chill in the air, apple cider, beautiful colors, the sound of crackling leaves under your feet, kids running in every different direction (usually squealing in delight); even having hay all over your house when you return home with two young boys is part of the fun.

Yesterday my wife and I embarked on this favorite past-time and in the midst of all the fun, crackling leaves, and the laughing kids – God taught me yet another lesson.

Our oldest son Grant, who will turn four in December, was his usual cautious self.  When asked on the way to the farm what he was most excited about, he responded with “Playing in the corn.”  Let me translate for you.  This means sitting in a sandbox (now filled with corn kernels), and playing with the toy tractors, bulldozers, and cranes.  Great fun for a soon-to-be four-year old boy… but a little tame compared to the other options.  There are covered slides that you ride through on a burlap sack; there are more traditional slides set atop bales of hay;  there is a giant pumpkin-like tarp which you can “bounce” on;  and lastly there’s the mini-zip lines for children age three and above.  Having been to the farm last year, Grant had seen these and even participated in some, but the corn-filled “sandbox” was what drew the most anticipation.

And so we started in the corn…. and truth be told, we could have stayed there all day.  However, our more adventurous son Brock, who will turn two next month, was getting pretty bored with this after about 15 minutes.  Brock wanted to explore and find something more exciting.  So we coaxed Grant out of the corn and set off to see the other options with his younger brother.

Over the course of the next couple of hours I repeatedly walked Grant over to the more adventurous activities.  Each time we visited one, he would watch the other kids in silence, hold on to me a bit tighter, and eventually say ‘no’ when asked if he wanted to take part.  The one exception was the slide set atop the hay-bales .  I was able to coax him on to this slide (which couldn’t be more than six feet tall and was smaller than just about any slide he’s gone down at our various neighborhood parks) and I got him to go down it once.  He immediately wanted to do it again, climbed back up the hay, waited his turn, got seated to go down, and ‘chickened out.’  Having just gone down it seconds earlier, he now wouldn’t budge.  I had to climb up the hay and ‘rescue’ him.

As I carried Grant down I had a conversation with him that I would have at least three more times that afternoon.  It went something like this:  “Do you understand that you’re ALWAYS safe when Daddy’s around?  NOTHING can hurt you when I’m with you.  When you’re in my arms, nothing can get to you.  I would protect you no matter what.  Do you understand that?”  Each time I said this Grant sheepishly nodded and said ‘yes,’ then asked to go back to the corn-box (or if he could have a snack).  He never did go back down the slide… or do the zip line, or the bouncing pumpkin tarp.  And truth be told, I was pretty disappointed…. for two reasons.  One, I of course wanted Grant to have fun.  I knew one trip on the zip line would mean twelve more  (because he’d done it last year with this same result).  But secondly, I was disappointed because I was hurt.  I felt my little boy somehow didn’t trust me.  He let the fear of a simple slide outweigh the safety of his father, who was physically right next to him.  On some level – one he surely didn’t even recognize – he didn’t trust me or he didn’t feel I could protect him.  At least not enough to outweigh the “fear” he was feeling.  He had a choice between trust/love and fear.  He chose the fear.  And that hurt.  Maybe this explains why at least once when I was going through one of my “don’t you know nothing can hurt you when you’re in daddy’s arm’s?” speeches I actually started to tear up.

Well of course you probably now know where I’m going with this.  This morning in my quiet time it hit me that I’m Grant and God is MY Daddy.  How many times has God walked me into a situation where He knew it would be good for me to act?  Yes, it would be a challenge, but it would also produce growth in my character, advancement for the Kingdom, or somehow carry out God’s Will.  Most times it would probably do all three.  God  carries me up to these mini-zip lines and hay slides all the time… then sees how I will react.  And because God loves me and believes intensely in my “free-will,” He never forces me to take part.  He just walks me up to the challenge, shows me what the possibilities are, holds me tightly, and then let’s me decide.  I didn’t ‘force’ Grant to do any of the activities, I let him ultimately make the choice.  God does the same with me.

So the question I wrestled with this morning was:  When I choose not to act, does God feel the same “pain” I felt when Grant didn’t trust me?  When Grant lets the fear be stronger than his trust in me… it wounds me deeply.  When I choose not to act out of fear, does it wound God just as deeply?  Even more?  Is it my own personal mini-zip line when I refuse to have a conversation about salvation with that one stubborn relative?  Is my “pumpkin bounce” that bruised relationship that I refuse to mend out of fear and embarrassment?  And is my ‘hay slide’ asking a donor for another large gift to Compassion, even though they eagerly said yes just one year ago?

I felt yesterday how deeply I was ‘hurt’ by Grant’s deciding the fear was more powerful than the trust he has in his father.  I understand it of course, and I certainly don’t blame him… but I was still hurt.  Very hurt.

I have to imagine my Father feels the same……

I John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love.  But Perfect Love drives out fear….The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Ultimately every big decision comes down to fear or love.  I either choose to move because of my Father’s Love for me and my trust in that Love; or I choose not to move out of a “fear” that I somehow feel is greater than my Father.

From now on I want to choose Love….always.

The Beautiful Children of Compassion Ecuador

It’s very rare that I have the privilege of traveling internationally with Compassion in two consecutive months… but it happened in March and April of this year.  As you’ve seen from my earlier post, I was able to share some images of Compassion’s children in Peru; now I have the honor of doing the same for the children of Ecuador.

I hope you enjoy the photos below… and appreciate just how much your sponsorship means to these beautiful children, their families, and their Lord.

Living Out Christ's Mandate to Care for the Poor