THE PRICE AND REWARDS OF DREAMS
Today, our nation celebrates the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in reality, we also celebrate the equality and freedom that was brought about because of his life and the lives of so many others who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King was an eloquent speaker with a big vision. So much of what he said then still stirs us today.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood."
As followers of Jesus, I believe we are all called to dream. We are called to dream of what this world would look like if we all worked together and truly lived as Jesus commanded us to live by His words and example.
One of my dreams, is that all the children of Swaziland would have enough food to eat, a nurturing and secure home, quality education that prepares them for the future, sufficient clothing to protect them from the elements, the knowledge that they are valued and loved by God, and that He has a plan for them in this life and the eternal one to come.
It seems like a crazy dream. But then, the dreams of equality seemed impossibly crazy for the black person living in America's Deep South a hundred years ago. One hundred years ago in my part of the world, a black man couldn't drink from the same water fountain as a white man, a black child couldn't go to school with a white child, a black woman couldn't sit down and eat in a whites' only restaurant, and a black man who fell in love with a white woman --- even if she loved him back --- could find himself beaten or even hanging from a noose.
And there were whites, too, who dreamed of a different South. Not all whites were racist. Not all whites were satisfied with the status quo. There were whites who also yearned for a day when their black brothers and sisters would attain the status and respect that they deserved.
In my book of COMMON PRAYER: A LITURGY FOR ORDINARY RADICALS, a prayer was featured this weekend in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday---
Lord, as we wake from another night's slumber, we are reminded that your dreams are given to us and not merely conjured up by our imaginations. Help us understand both that your dreams come at a price and that their rewards are immeasurable. Amen.
Those participants in the Civil Rights Movement got that. They yearned for the rewards of equal rights but they very clearly understood the price that they would have to pay. For some, it was loss of job, crosses burnt in their yard, food thrown at them, and vicious names spewed at them. For others, it was bone-breaking beatings, weeks spent in prison, and even the ultimate sacrifice of their very lives. There were those who were willing to literally die for the cause of justice and die they did.
Their example forces us as followers of Jesus to examine our hearts and ask ourselves, "would I be willing to sacrifice and even die for what God calls me to do?"
I am afraid that all too often my answer is "no". Oh, I may say with my words "I am willing, Lord" and I may sing "all to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give", but do my actions show that I really, really mean that?
It isn't just enough that I say it with my words, but my actions need to back that up.
Am I truly willing to follow Jesus in His life of sacrifice and servanthood? Am I willing to do without so others can have? Am I willing to suffer so others will not suffer? Am I willing to go into dangerous places to rescue others from danger? Am I willing to die so others might live?
I want to be. Oh, I want to be.
At least, a part of me wants to be willing and then to do it.
But a big part of me is a spoiled, pampered, safety-is-my-god, American Christian.
For most of my life, being a Christian meant being a nice person who follows the moral laws of the Bible.
It is only in the last few years that I've started getting a hold of the truth that to be a Christian means to be a little Christ and that to be a little Christ means I need to do more than just be nice, tell people about Jesus, and do good things. It means I must become a servant, a radical servant, one that is willing to leave it all. It means I must not just be willing but seek to go into the darkest, hardest places and risk my life and the life of my family.
My family. My children.
Risk their lives?
South Africa has recently gone through their own racial civil rights movement as people struggled against the apartheid form of government that institutionally discriminated against people and legally controlled who could marry, where a person could live, and what a person could do for their job all based on race.
One of those who struggled nonviolently against apartheid in South Africa was Albert Luthuli. He said:
"It is inevitable that in working for freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: the road to freedom is via the cross."
When I read this, I was faced with the realization that to follow this dream of bringing freedom to the children of Swaziland --- freedom from extreme poverty, freedom from spiritual darkness, freedom from death and disease --- that our family might suffer. For an American mama who has safety as a key mantra, this is hard. I don't like pain. I am a scaredy cat about so many things. I double check my locks and always wear my seat belt. I am careful about where my kids go and what they do and who they are with. I pray everytime I drive them anywhere that God will protect us.
And yet, I'm saying that I will willingly put my kids in danger and take them on a journey that will bring about suffering?
Yes, because I believe that God is calling our family to fight for his precious "least of these" in Swaziland.
Yes, because I believe that He has put a supernatural love in my heart for that nation and the Bible says that "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends". (John 15:13)
I want to have that kind of life. I want to have that kind of love.
The price might be great. But the rewards? Oh, the sweet, sweet rewards.
To see a tiny baby live and thrive and grow.
To see a sick child healed and running and laughing.
To see an abandoned teenage girl transformed into a princess with hope for a beautiful future.
To see an orphan brought into a home and loved.
To see an old woman able to enjoy the fruits of her labor knowing that when she passes, her grandchildren will be cared for.
To see a young man walking strong in the Lord and leading his family, community, and nation.
To see a nation following the Lord in truth and love.
These are rewards that are worth suffering for. These are rewards that require Christians to take up their cross and follow Jesus.
Fifty years ago, people were faced with a decision:
Would they fight for the freedom of their fellow man, stand on the side and do nothing, or fight against justice for their fellow man?
If you are a Christian, I am asking you today, will you fight for the oppressed, sick, and starving "least of these" or will you stand by and do nothing?
Dr. King said ---
"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
The children of Swaziland might not be who God is calling you to fight for. He might be calling you to the prostitutes in your city, the immigrant community in your town, the lonely residents of your neighborhood nursing home, or the homeless you pass everyday on your way to work. It might be a neighborhood in a Mexico border town, a city dump community in Central America, the sex tourism areas of Thailand, or an orphanage in Ukraine.
The Bible makes it very, very clear that ALL Christians are called to care for the orphans and widows. ALL Christians are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, visit the imprisoned, care for the homeless.
But this is a big, big world with many needs and not every person can be involved in every need.
But we must all be involved in meeting the needs somewhere, somehow.
Fellow follower of Jesus, what is the fight God is calling you to?
Who does God want you to lay your life down for?
If you don't know, ask Him! He will show you.
If you do have that pulling on your heart but you don't know where to start, ask Him!
And if you know where to start but you don't have the strength or means or even the willingness to do it, ask Him!
These are the kinds of prayers that He promises to answer.
If you think that the children of Swaziland might be one of the "least of these" that He wants you to fight for, sponsorship through the Bheveni Carepoint sponsor program is a good place to start.
A child like four year old Nomphilo, who lives with her grandmother and nine other children, deserves the chance to dream of a good life filled with amazing possibilities. A child like Nomphilo needs someone like you to help these dreams become a reality. Her name literally means "life" in siSwati. By sponsoring her, someone will be helping her live out the fullness of her name.
Today, join with me as I stand with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a man who layed down his life for his fellow man, and dream about a better world.
Dream with me about a world that was prayed for by Jesus when He said ---
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."
Nothing is too hard for God. Nothing is too hard when His people say "yes" to His call.
For more information on sponsoring Nomphilo or other Bheveni Carepoint children, visit: http://moms4change.net/sponsor-an-orphan/