Strong in the Broken: Loving Others While Fearing Others

Today’s Strong in the Broken guest post is by Jennifer Brogdon about finding the courage to love people in spite of her fears.

I do not recall fearing others the first half of my life. 

It begins the first time I hear someone say this or that about me. It heightens when I notice others plot to vote against me in a school election. At its peak, I hear the booing as I walk up to receive an award and want to hide from the public (or people in general) forever. At the same time, loved ones’ verbal cut-downs continue throughout the years.  This punch to the gut continues beating me up in every new relationship—not necessarily from anything the other person does but from the possibility of what they could do. I see the lady with the beautiful garden and the multitude of trinkets sitting on her porch each time I jog by and the woman in the brown house with white shutters who checks her mailbox during my stroll. As a Christian, I know I should not avoid people but rather love them. I am scared though. In this instance, I am scared of the frailest woman and what she may think of me. 

To rightly love others, I must get over my fear of what they think of me.

I hear a couple explain the difficulty in building relationships with the people in their community across the world.  They share how it takes years for the people to welcome you in a deep and meaningful way. This hits me. I think about the importance of staying in the same area for a long time because of this, but then it hits me harder as I ponder my impact on my own community. Over the last few years, the impact has been small.

On my next run around the neighborhood, I start to notice people, namely the elderly.  I wonder who they are, what they believe, how they feel, and what they may need. Do they have faith convictions? Is their faith deeper because of their years? Are they lonely? Do they have loved ones who take care of them? Questions like these flood my mind, but then fears sprinkle in one by one—as they often do. I wonder what people would think of me if I went up to talk to them.  I imagine a snarky response or being ignored. I fear their reaction to how I would approach them, when I would do it, and what I would say.

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for two and a half years and only know the neighbors to my left and my right.  I believe the couple when they said relationships take time to build, especially in a different culture. How much more frightening is it to approach those who see you as a foreigner than the elderly woman who lights up with a youthful glow in seeing a young face speak to her? The boo-ers from my youth were people I knew for many years. I remember calling them my friends. The verbally abusive were the ones who knew me (or thought they did) the best.  I shudder to bring many people close enough to where they could point fingers or stab me in the back. 

But something deep compels me to love even if I don’t receive love in return. The One who fully loves me despite my failures to love him persuades me. Perfect love casts out fear, and his love proves perfect in my salvation and in my future hope. I fail at times. I keep jogging by the lady because the bullies of my past are all I see, like a horse with blinders. The two greatest commandments say to love God and then love your neighbor. To love my neighbor, God is the one I need in clear view!

Hiding from others displays zero love, for God is love and came down as the God-man. He came to seek and to save the lost with full knowledge he would bear the sins of man and endure the wrath of God. This love took everlasting death from me and gave me eternal life.  If this reality does not encourage me to abide in Christ to fight my fear of others which enables me to love others as he loved me first, what will?

Jennifer Brogdon is a stay at home mom who ministers to students at Mississippi College during her free time. She enjoys running, reading, traveling, watching classic movies, and writing for Desiring God, True Woman, Servants of Grace, her own blog, and others. Jennifer and her husband Shane are members of Grace Community Church in Jackson and have a heart for the nations. You can find her on Twitter @brogdonjen or  her blog https://www.jennifercbrogdon.com

 

*image via Flickr

Too Much Trash

Quick link: Beirut Has a Trash Problem

What happens when trash takes over a city?

garbage-193363_1280

Truck drivers in Djibouti regularly toss empty Coke bottles from windows. School kids unwrap candy and let the wrapper waft to the street without even thinking about it. Plastic bags float like leg-less jellyfish through the air on blustery days and snag on thorny acacia trees.

There is a garbage pick-up service. The orange truck drives through neighborhoods with its cheerful ice-cream truck jingle calling out the guards to bring bags and bins to dump in the back. There are also street cleaners, usually women, wearing bright orange cloaks over their dresses and headscarves over their faces to keep the dust out of their eyes and mouths as they sweep up dust and garbage.

Still there are mounds everywhere, some streets are almost entirely covered with flattened plastic water bottles. Parts of the ocean are nearly plugged up with trash, even protected areas like where sea turtles flock. I thought Djibouti had a trash problem. Then I saw photos coming out of Beirut, Lebanon. Trash problems, it turns out, are relative.

Beginning in 2015, Beirut underwent an apocalyptic trash crisis. Mountains of white garbage bags, as tall as ski slopes, appeared in the city. Literal rivers of trash, on the move from their own weight and momentum, slowly oozed down roads and clogged waterways. Some streets were too full to drive on. Some sidewalks became impassable. The stench was overpowering.

Some people said rain washed toxins from the trash into the water supply. The piles became breeding grounds for rats and disease. Though little attempt was made to clear the trash, the government did sprinkle white powder on it, hoping that would discourage the rats and the disease. The mounds were also dangerous fire hazards. A construction site-cum-garbage dump in the Dbayeh area north of Beirut spontaneously combusted in September 2016.

In picture after picture and article after article, I saw residents of Beirut walk past the piles with their hands over their faces or drive by without glancing at the trash. Had they accepted it? Were they resigned to live in this rubbish hell? What caused this crisis?

To read the rest of the story click here: Beirut Has a Trash Problem

*limited time offer on Djiboutilicious, now through January 1, 2017, only $1.99

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Save $5 on a Book at Amazon

Book lovers alert!

Amazon is offering $5.00 off any book purchase of $15.00 or more (physical books only), good through today, December 5, so get moving! Enter “GIFTBOOK” at checkout.

Just in case you don’t have a book wish list of hundreds of books, like I do, may I suggest a few?

When Breath Becomes Air

Stunning, sad, joyful, beautiful.

In keeping with the air theme, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

A terrifying, exhilarating adventure tale.

For the holiday, to read out loud with your kids like we do every year, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Funny, poignant, classic.

The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down–While Enjoying Every Bite

A great gift for the chefs and/or runners in your life.

I love these four books. For other books I love, from sports to the Horn of Africa to read-a-louds, click through to posts in The Bookshelf.

If you use your gift card to make a purchase, let readers here know, leave a recommendation in the comments!

Thanksgiving Recap

I’m thankful I don’t blog for my job. That means I can take time off, like I’ve done for much of this fall and last summer.

Thanksgiving

 

I’m thankful I’ve written about thankfulness and Thanksgiving in the past so I can reshare those essays without straining my strained brain.

I’m thankful for every person who comes to this small space of internet.

I’m thankful for good books about thankfulness. Here are some favorites:

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. First time I read this, I didn’t like it. I was in Minnesota. Second time I read it, I could hardly read it, because I was tearing up so often. I loved it. I was in Djibouti. Point being, sometimes our reactions to books are entirely related to where we are in life.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan, because I’m so thankful for the crazy love of God.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson, because I’m thankful there are people like this in the world.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, by Krista Tippett, because I’m thankful for books that make me slow down.

Here are some past Thanksgiving-related essays by Djibouti Jones:

In NPR: Thanksgiving Ball in Djibouti

At Babble: No Thanks To You!

At Brain Child: Post-Thanksgiving Reflections of an Expatriate Mother

On the blog: 10 Thanksgivings of a Mother of Boarding School Kids

Please share some of your Thanksgiving-related links in the comments below!

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Election 2016: Loving People Well

I know I said I wouldn’t say anything. I still won’t tell you who I voted for. Assume away, I can’t help that and won’t try.

But it is hard to remain silent when I watch the news. It is all happening so far away from me and I have been far away from living in the US for over a decade now. So I’ve missed a lot. Watching the news is not even close to experiencing the upheavals our nation is going through.

My Rock

 

You know how people ask: where were you on 9/11? I remember the phone call from my dad, the radio announcer, calling my husband at work. But one of my clearest memories is going to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I thought about who had perpetrated this horror. I thought about what my response should be. I started to pray for the people who planned and acted to break the heart of a nation. And I wondered: what if someone had loved Osama bin Laden well? What if someone had really loved him well, had instilled in him a respect for human life, dignity, joy, hope, sacrifice, community?

I determined that night, as I prayed, that I wanted to live a life of loving people well. Not because I thought that I might encounter, and sway, potential future terrorists but because I believe that when people are loved, they can flourish. And flourishing people don’t slaughter innocents.

What does it look like to love well? Listen to broken hearts, serve the needy, give up my tendency toward greed so that my neighbor can be clothed, welcome a stranger who needs someplace to sleep, bandage wounds, take financial and physical risks. I mean these things literally. Placing bunches of bananas near the head of a sleeping homeless man so he can wake to a feast. Giving a woman who just had a miscarriage money for the hospital. Or for drugs, how can I know? I can only know that she has no roof over her head and I have money in my wallet. Risking so much to start a school so there can be jobs and education and community. Caring for my family with zeal and creativity…

I don’t live this way very well, very often, or very consistently. I read in Job 12 this morning, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune.” I am very much at ease in this life. I need to guard against contempt for misfortune and one of the ways I know to do that is to love people well.

During this coming presidency and even now, in the days leading to its onset on January 21, 2017, I want to love people well. On both sides of the aisle, or for all those who are not party-voters, on all sides of the aisle. There is a lot of rage, humiliation, pride, shame, shaming, silence, and shouting. Our nation has been stripped bare, all of our sins and arrogance and ignorance on display. There can be no more pretending. Our darkness is being brought into the light. It isn’t just the election, it is shootings and immigration and health insurance and marriage…

We can block freeways and burn flags and smash windows. We can boast and thump our chests. We can mock and ridicule, insult and lie. We can refuse to accept a process that may or may not have turned out in our favor. We can wait and see. We can open our mouths and scream. We can hide in silence. We can cry. We can celebrate.

But we must listen. We can find people who are not like us, both online and in real life, instead of hunkering down behind walls with people who already think like us. We can seek to understand their stories and their histories and their hopes, fears, dreams. We can empathize and not demonize. We can be humble. We can win with grace and lose with dignity. We can speak our own ideas with passionate conviction while allowing others to have different ideas. We can refuse to label or to lump people into certain categories.

This is not easy. It is exhausting, in fact. My family lives this way every day, as minorities culturally, ethnically, religiously and it challenges us all the way to the very core of our being, our identities.

I live in a divided household when it comes to elections and again, you can try to assume or guess what I mean by divided, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be wrong. And that’s what I mean. Both about the need to listen and the need to love. You might think you know my husband and I but you don’t really know all the complicated, agonized wrestlings that go into each of our decisions.

He and I need to listen to each other, to be sharpened and challenged and pushed by each other, without vitriol or spite, and then we need to love each other.

People have asked, “What do I tell my kids?” This is what I told my kids, it is what I tell them during every election cycle of every country that have lived in or love:

My hope is never in an earthly ruler. They will all fail us. My hope is on a rock that does not change like shifting shadows. My hope is on a King who does not need to campaign or be elected, who does not have term limits. My hope is on a Ruler who has the perfect balance of mercy and justice without needing electoral colleges or branches of government. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I’m found, all other ground is sinking sand.

And while my hope remains firmly there, I will, in practical daily life terms, strive to love people well.

All other ground is sinking sand.

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