But I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed!

“But I don’t wanna go to bed!” Sound familiar? Irritatingly, we have this conversation nearly every evening. Usually, it revolves around the fact that the kiddos want Mama to read another chapter of the book we’re reading together. Right now, we’re reading The Chronicles of Narnia series, and quite frankly I could stay up all night reading these books. Nevertheless, that is not wise for any of us.

Over the weekend, Clara uttered her little nightly complaint once again and I found myself launching into a mini tirade about the privilege of going to bed. I expounded on the beauty of her warm, soft bed layered with clean sheets and quilts and fluffy pillows, in a dry room, safe and snuggly, loaded with stuffed animals, soft classical music playing in the background. Kind of makes you want to curl up right here, right now, doesn’t it!

Did you see the photo shoot that made the rounds of Facebook and other social media outlets recently? The one focusing on children around the world and their treasured possessions? Many of the children are posing on or near their beds. Take another look! Here’s the link.

Reading through posted comments is one of those vacuum cleaner activities… I hate it but I get sucked in. So, I read through some of the comments. Many were complimentary of the photography; some commented on the similarities between countries while others were shocked/disturbed/amazed at what was considered a treasure. And then there were a few snarky comments regarding the photographer’s choice of subjects… particularly regarding the photos from Malawi and Kenya. Why choose only “the most heart-wrenching” subjects? There are wealthy Malawians and Kenyans. Why choose these subjects? Why choose only a seemingly wealthy child in India? Why not visit the slums of Calcutta? Or the cardboard camps in Honduras? That probably has more to do with access and money more than some grand social engineering on the photographer’s part. But I think the point has been lost. There are children around the world living in grand luxury and children around the world living in abysmal circumstances, children with amazingly comfortable beds and children with a cot or a mud and straw mattress or nothing, children with hundreds of toys and children with 1 or 2.

Then there are the children of Uganda. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 children have been stolen from their homes in the middle of the night, have been enslaved by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, and have been orphaned by the 20 + year war he perpetrated on the country of Uganda. Do you remember Joseph Kony and the Invisible Children video calling for his arrest that went viral last year? He’s still out there. According to the Invisible Children website, he is moving north toward the Sudan where he is finding more friendly governments, but he remains at large in the Congo. And in his wake, he has left thousands of children. Some children join their parents on a daily hike to the nearest city… sometimes over 10 miles away… so they may sleep in the streets, protected by the largeness of the city, and avoid being abducted. Others have been uprooted from home all together, living in dire refugee camps. Other children have escaped from the LRA but live with the terrors of being abducted in the middle of the night; of being beaten nearly to death; of having to kill brothers, sisters, parents; of being used as sex slaves; of being a tiny soldier. There are children who have returned home to find no parents, who are heading the household at tender ages, responsible for the food and safety of the smaller siblings. I’d like you to watch this video. In it, a boy is crying because he is the head of his household. He went to the well to get water for his siblings. The other children at the well pushed him and he wasn’t able to fetch water for his family. He has a mat and no blankets for his family to sleep on. His 4-year-old sister is lame and requires care for even the simplest of things. The boy is 12. At 12, my daughter hopes to purchase her first phone and get her ears pierced. While she will have responsibilities around the house, she will certainly not be responsible for running the household. This boy’s story breaks my heart. And this is just one story. One horrific, unthinkable, unbelievable, mind-blowingly sad story. (stay tuned)

Air Entitlement

Air travel is so delightful, isn’t it? Between the disgrace of pat downs, the grossness of walking through airport security shoeless, the jostling for position in the boarding line much like sheep through a chute, and the cramped quarters on-board, flying has become a necessary evil — convenient in the sense of time, but extremely uncomfortable. Last night as I boarded the plane in Ontario/LA, I threw up a prayer asking for safety and patience for us all and for wisdom for the pilot and crew. The instruction came to fire down electronic devices and I figured we were heading up. Turns out it wouldn’t be for another 2 hours. A screw on a wing panel was missing. Due to a lack of mechanics and screws, the process took 2 hours. People who might miss connections were rebooked on other flights. Those of us who were committed to a flight to Oakland were allowed to deplane and find sustenance. And yet, there were complaints. They ran the gamut of “how could this happen to me?” to “what are you going to give me for this inconvenience in my life?”

Me? I hunkered down with my Bible study. Through my church, I’m working through C. S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters.  Screwtape, a demon worker of Satan’s, is writing letters to his nephew Wormwood and trying to advise him on ways to distract and coerce his “patient” away from a newfound Christianity and back to the ways of the world. In Letter 21, Screwtape advises Wormwood to focus on the patient’s sense of ownership. If the patient believes time belongs to him, then he will feel peevish at the imposition of others on his time. If the demon acts just right, he can convince the patient there is little distinction between “my boots” and “my wife” or even “my God.” Screwtape concludes the letter saying, “And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.” He explains, “They (humans) will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong – certainly not to them, whatever happens.” The study material itself reminded me that all we have is a gift from God… our time, our resources, our talents, our possessions, our very lives. The study material says, “The truth is God gave us life, then the liberty or freedom to pursue happiness…. God did not give us the right to make demands upon others to feed us or clothe us or to provide shelter for us or to give us a job or even to pay our medical expenses or provide an education.” Rather, “[Our] objects are all gifts from God. God would have us treat these gifts well” and “[t]he time we have is a free gift from God. How we spend that time in some measure will reflect how we will be judged [or rewarded].”

I could hardly contain myself. Rarely does Bible study and “real life” coincide so dramatically.  Here I was on a plane with a cross-section of humanity, many of whom felt that they had been abused in some way. Their sense was that they were entitled to some sort of gift or reward for putting up with the inconvenience. But what if we had flown with that lost screw, what if the wing panel had wiggled off? What about the safety issue here? It wasn’t like the airline had unscrewed the screw just to spite their clientele. Maybe it was entirely a God-thing… a protection for us all from injury and/or death. In fact, I believe completely that’s what it was. When I reunited with my family and the kids asked what had happened to delay Mommy’s return I explained just that… that God had protected the people on the plane and me from injury. Screwtape and his friends very well could have distracted the crew from noticing the lost screw (is anyone else enjoying the further coincidence of the lost screw and the author of the letters, Screwtape?).

Let’s take this a bit further. If God gave us time, money, energy, everything, then we have some very important choices to make in how we spend our time, money, energy, lives. I’ve heard it said that what we spend our money on reflects where our heart lies, what we value. How we spend our time, especially our “free time” also reflects what we value and where our heart lies. Do we make room for God’s work in “our” time? Do we use “our” money for God’s work?  Or do we simply use our time and money for our comfort?

Have I mentioned the beauty of Compassion Tea in light of my ramblings?  Indulge me for a minute! You see, when you purchase a membership to our tea club (www.compassiontea.com/memberships) you spend roughly $12 a month depending on the membership you choose. The after-tax profit from that money may purchase eye glasses or Band-Aids or Neosporin or blood pressure cuffs or Novocain or surgical gloves or medicines which will then be sent to a clinic in rural Africa where it may treat a small child, a mother, a grandmother, a father, a brother, a son, a daughter… someone who does not have regular access to health care, doctors, even basic first aid. It may be used to ship supplies to Africa. It may be donated to a clinic to build a well, buy a solar panel, fix an airplane engine, pay the salary of a medical worker, host a clinic for first aid education… somehow improve the conditions of life for people in rural parts of Africa. In fact, we have Compassion Tea directors leaving Thursday to take supplies to the clinics we support in South Africa! (Stay tuned for exciting stories from the bush!) Taking care of God’s people, teaching them ways to provide for themselves, spending money to help others… all while also enjoying marvelous teas. (Sneak preview… we’ve got new teas coming… more on that later!)

Buying a Compassion Tea membership does in fact provide for our own comfort, but it also saves a life. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!