change the world {day 25} :: use words

If you ever doubt the power of a word, ever wonder how words alone can scale the darkness that surrounds us in the world, consider this –  God said let there be light, and there was light. He spoke over an earth that was formless and void, the darkest dark that ever existed was the world.

God did not dig or pound or hammer or fight. He did not run breathless into nothing, He breathed life into man. He simply said it, and it was. Words affirm, seduce, clarify, define. Powerful enough to begin war and merciful enough to end them. Words persuade, convince, tear down, build up. Perhaps the poets, the storytellers, and those who speak their words with conviction stand on the front lines of influence. What do you think about the power of words to change the world?

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change the world {day 24} :: use names

“I love the rare moments when I am permitted to offer my name to someone … to be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love.”

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

We named our first girl before we realized there were two. I had her name picked months before there were any babies at all. Her name is delicate and lady-like and lovely. But the day we found out I was carrying two girls, the pressure to pick a second name was heavy. I couldn’t bear the thought of my girls within me, limbs pressing in on me and one another, one with a name and the other without.

And so as we left the hospital, shiny black and white ultrasound photos clutched in my swollen hand, The Man and I chose a name as we sat at a stoplight on Green Valley Road. We knew right away the name was a fit and I felt deeply satisfied that both our girls now had our love in the form of two beautiful names. It was powerful to name them before we met them, to have them come into this messy world with a sense of belonging. This is your name, little one. You will carry this with you from this moment until forever. This name is a piece of you.

Before I went to the Philippines, there were imaginary people I knew I would meet. But now that I’ve been, there is Rose Ann, Aj, Maan, Emily, Lola. People, women, children – seen and known intimately by God. Jesus calmed Martha by saying her name twice. He changed Simon’s name to Peter, the rock. He added the ‘h’ to Abram, literally putting Yahweh into Abraham. He changed Sarai to Sarah as part of his covenant. His attention is turned, not toward politics or policy, but toward names.

Names mean things, carry weight and importance and intimacy. To know their name is to know something of them. The world is not a nameless, faceless green and blue mass of land and water. The world is made of people, rich with story, full of intrigue, longing for passion, and love and adventure. And so changing the world means influencing people – beautiful, messy, fearful, fascinating, talented, lonely people. And it begins with knowing their name.

change the world {day 22} :: be small

I’m headed to the Relevant Conference next week, a conference that exists to minister to the woman, the blogger, and the storyteller. It is an honor to serve as a speaker at this conference, to look into the eyes of friends and writers — to speak truth, to have truth spoken, to listen, and to move. When you stand in a room with that many women, there is a temptation to make yourself big, big, big. Oh, to know the kindness and acceptance of Jesus in the midst of a crowd of successful people.

I believe we are called to embrace our own smallness. If the world had more people who understood their smallness, the world would be different. Blessed are the small and humble among us – those who see the world in a way that understands they are not the center of it. When I remember that the world does not revolve around me, I can stop trying to make it spin and instead enter into it, free.

Today is day 22 in 31 Days to Change the World. Read the series from the beginning here. And if you would like to have Chatting at the Sky delivered into your inbox, subscribe here for free.

change the world {day 21} :: suffer

“People are always telling me that change is good. But all that means is that something you didn’t want to happen has happened.”

Kathleen Kelly

The neighbor was mowing his yard the other day, his green beautiful yard, and my weird imagination had a glimpse of what our cul-de-sac would look like if we all decided to stop mowing our yards. The grass would grow beyond its driveway, concrete curb, pinestraw limits. It would get weedy and messy. I imagined us walking through a front yard forest of grass to get to the mailbox, and I considered how we are always working to hold back nature from taking its true course.

Sometimes the natural way of things is too far from our ideal, and so we work and we labor to keep the natural at bay. Do you ever feel like the goal of your life is simply to prevent yourself from suffering? It’s cold in here – turn up the heat. My head aches – find the Advil. Hunger pains – let’s make lunch. The baby cries – rock him good.

It isn’t wrong to take an Advil or rock the baby. Of course not. And then, there are worse things – horrible, unthinkable, true suffering. I don’t want to argue the purpose for suffering or why God allows suffering, but I simply want to say this: learn to suffer well and you can change the world.

I don’t know how to suffer well. There is too much fear in this unknown world, too much I love at stake. I’m learning, in small and simple ways. But consider those you admire, those who live with passion and intention – do they have a story of suffering? It may not be an outward, public brokenness, but I would venture to say that the world changers are well acquainted with grief. A seed must fall deep into the ground, breaking in the darkness of the damp earth before it can spring up and burst forth with life, full and new. And so the suffering of this broken life does not in itself bring about change, rather it is how the suffering is handled in the hands of the broken. Would you dare to rejoice in the suffering? Is it even possible?

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

change the world {day 20} :: say no

Sometimes a step toward changing the world means taking the risk to do that big thing, knowing you could fail but facing it anyway. Other times, changing the world comes from saying no, bowing out, staying seated when it seems like you should stand. If yes were a building, no is the back door. Because for every brave yes, there is also a no that comes right along with it. And sometimes saying no takes more courage than saying yes ever did.

We run into some of our most overwhelming problems when we fail to realize that our yes’s live in the same basket as our no’s. And so we must be confident enough in our decisions that a narrowed eye from a fellow school parent doesn’t sway us; that pressure from the Bible study leader at church doesn’t force our hand; that a harsh but well-intended word from a relative doesn’t derail our priorities. Believe in your yes, hold fast to your no. Don’t let the easily offended critic set the agenda.

People may love you, respect you, look up to you, want to be with you, but they will not say no for you. They will let you work and volunteer as long as you are willing. They will let you lead and be strong and move ahead if you want to. Don’t get mad at them for letting you continue to say yes. Only you know your boundaries. If you don’t, might I encourage you to find them out. Because yes can be brave, but it can also be bossy. It can become an addiction. Before you realize it, all of your yes’s are to obligation and duty. And because of those obligated yes’s you are forced to look passion and intention and desire in the eye and say No, I don’t have time for you.

Protect the goal. Carve out margin. Create space for your soul to breathe. Weigh the cost your yes will have on your spirit, your soul, your body. You may have to search for your brave yes, but you will have to fight for your brave no.

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change the world {day 19} :: say yes

He really did get down on one knee, although a lot of it is foggy. You think you’ll remember it all like a movie, but instead you remember weird things, like how the bench where we sat had a small dedication plaque on the back of it. I think it was a woman’s name, the bench given as a gift to the park in her honor. She never could have known when her life was gone that we would begin ours together here, on a bench with her name on it. But there it was, a silent witness.

I said yes (of course) and that one word propelled us forward into the next 10 years. I still say yes, everyday. No one asks if I will take this man every morning when I get up. But I do take him, whether the day is worse or better. He asked the question once. I answer him with my life.

Things going wrong or crazy or heartbreaking doesn’t mean I should have said no. It just means the world is broken and we still live in it. And so the success of our yes does not depend upon our circumstance but upon our convictions. We usually know this is true in marriage, but it’s true in other things, too.

Sometimes no is my default because I know yes will require something of me. Movement. Commitment. Expectation. Change. We know saying yes means a lot, implies a lot. And so we hide behind no and leave the yes’s for the brave and the courageous — those who are not us.

But your world would be different if you were not in it. And your brave yes might be just what we’re waiting for.  Yes, I will believe. Yes, I will move. Yes, I will open my eyes. Yes, I will show up. You might not like what you see. You might be afraid of what is required of you. But yes is the first step and you are not alone. What is your brave yes?

We’re talking about changing the world everyday in October. See the other posts in the series here.