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Why My Last Visit to Haiti Made me Hunger

The first week of January I hosted a small team from Champion Forest Baptist Church in Haiti. The following entry was written after a beach excursion with the 3 newest children from Max’s Ministry.

What Hunger Looks Like

His tiny arm methodically lifted the large spoon to his mouth. It was slow but steady and with every heaping bite of food you could see him quietly whisper words to himself. Looking at his 20 pound, 4 year-old body, there was no way he could get all that food into his bloated belly—but he did. Every single methodical bite.

One of the girls from Champions leaned in and asked one of the older kids from Max’s home what he was saying. “Mesi Jezi.” After every bite, Jouri whispered “Thank you, Jesus.” Every single grateful bite.

I thought about the rawness and depth of his gratitude. It was a gratitude that oozed out of the hungry belly of a four-year old boy in Haiti.

He wasn’t TRYING to be thankful. This wasn’t some rote one-liner that he was instructed to recite. This little boy possessed a hunger and thirst of the purest kind and I was watching him be filled.

I was reminded of Matthew 18:2—”Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I’m not going to write about how we’re going to help Joure and the other two children who suffer from chronic hunger.  We’re helping Max get the help these sweet babies need—I’ll be sharing more about Joure’s journey to food safety over the coming weeks.

What I am going to write to you is a CONFESSION:

I WANT that kind of gratitude—the kind of gratitude that flows out of a hungry heart. Joure made an impact on me on so many levels. It wrecked me but it also got me thinking about my own chronic hunger or, if I’m honest, the lack thereof.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be hungry. I can try to generate a superficial gratitude but the truth is I don’t know what it feels like to be without. Those of us who are saved have forgotten what it feels like to be lost. Those of us who are full have forgotten what it feels to be empty.

We are over-saturated, over stimulated, over done and yet—we are so emaciated. We need to get to that place where we recognize our emptiness and take in heapfuls of God’s goodness and thank Him after every  single morsel.

Like a child showing pure gratitude.

Like sweet little Joure thanking Jesus after ever bite of food.

My 21-Day Fast

My last day in Haiti was the first of a 21-Day fast that we are encountering at Restoration Church. Joure was fresh on my mind that day and my prayer was that I would experience a hunger for God that got me to a place where every sweet encounter, I would say “Thank you Jesus.”

We were on Day FOUR of our church-wide fast when I wrote this and here is the verse for that day:

Deuteronomy 8:2-3—

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart,whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna,which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Our hearts yearn to experience that same hunger that Joure felt that day— and we long to have it satisfied in some radical way. The problem is we try to stuff it with junk rather than the pure things that it really craves. G.K Chesterton said it best when he said, “A man that knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”

Our hunger manifests itself in so many ways—for me it’s becoming too comfortable reaching for a second glass of wine at the end of a hard day.

For you it may be too much chocolate cake or shopping, for him it may be sneaking in some pornography late at night. What if we hungered for God like Joure hungered for that plate of food? What if we mimicked the pureness of his hunger? I think then we could experience that raw and open gratitude I saw that day on the beach.

Let’s pray that God causes us to hunger for Him like He did for the Israelites in the desert. Let’s pray that He teaches us to feast on His Word.

Stepping into a Life of MORE

Fasting helps us channel our physical hunger towards a hunger for Him. We experience pangs of need that get so strong that we either break down and eat food or we eat of His Word. We willfully create an environment where we are empty and deny satisfaction with things that will easily fill the emptiness. Dan and I aren’t hard—core fasters (is that what they are called?) and we certainly aren’t gurus on spiritual disciplines, but we are commiting to this 21-Day fast by skipping breakfast and lunch and eating a light dinner after sunset. It is hard, but not impossible.

Maybe you read this and feel like you want to join us the rest of the way—there is power in numbers and I think God is yearning to rain down manna into our communities, our homes, our hearts. You can click here to follow Restoration’s Facebook page and learn about the fast.

I don’t know about you, but I want to get to that place where I can’t help but say “Thank you Jesus.”—not because I know I should, but because every heaping spoonful of Him means LIFE. Like the manna that sustained the Jews, like the feast the famished Joure experienced, spoonfuls of Him is the difference between LIFE or death.

 

 

 

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The Love that Jesus Taught

 “Truly, He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace; Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother And in His name all oppression shall cease”

-Oh Holy Night

I often quote John 13:35 to my children when they are going at one another with bickering—please tell me yours do that, too.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Of course, they don’t like to hear it because it’s hard to love like Jesus.

My question to them:  If a stranger were to walk into our home would their words draw them towards God or not?”

It really IS that simple. Are we loving one another like Christ taught us to love? Or are we not?

Usually, this very motherly exhortation results in peace for a moment—maybe two—but soon the arguing ensues and then I have to pull out the big guns like taking away electronics (NOT the electronics!!!) or even worse—forcing them to hug it out. Peace is going to reign in the Middlebrook home even if it kills us!!!

A peaceful moment together at Christmas Eve service.

 Law of Love

Last night at our Christmas Eve service, the words from Oh Holy Night gripped my heart in a shockingly revealing way.

The lyrics equate the slaves as our brothers and calls an end to oppression in the name of the one who taught us to love. I thought about what this meant in my life as I shakily sang the rest of the chorus.

Sometimes, I forget the Gospel of Peace in my effort to love the way Jesus taught me to love. I get so caught up in the injustices of this world that I lose myself in it rather than resting in His law of love and gospel of peace.

This year, I’ve been frustrated by the slowness of Kingdom work and have been worn down by the never-ending needs in Haiti. I’ve felt like a failure and more often than not, have felt ill-equipped.

Gospel of Peace

Yet, last night I was reminded that what happens this side of heaven isn’t what fans the flame of our mission. Our eyes are to look beyond to a King who wants to see every human being come to know His law of love and gospel of peace. We keep our eyes on Him—learning and leaning into Him.

Two-thousand years ago, God demoted Himself to the shameful status of a peasant boy so that the chains of oppression would be broken for Us once and for all.

So I ask you this—is your love for your brothers evident? If a stranger were to come into your home—would your love for others draw her to Christ? I’m not talking about easy love—like the kind we have for our friends and family, that kind gets us feel-goods and kisses in return.  Jesus said even the world can love like that.

I’m talking about the kind of love that you have to dig deep for. The kind that leads us to sacrifice for others so that they may come to be freed from the chains of slavery. It is the grit-filled love that tenaciously pursues in spite of rejection. This is the hard love—the kind that is pretty much impossible apart from Him.

If only loving this way was as beautiful as the lyrics of this carol. Peace does not come naturally to us—as all bickering siblings can attest—it is as hard and messy as….well….as a baby Savior being born in a stable.

I’m thankful this season—for a love and peace that can only be found in the one who showed us the greatest love of all.

“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Wishing your family the Love and Peace that Jesus us taught us. Merry Christmas!