change the world {day 27} :: listen

After I graduated, I worked for several years as a sign language interpreter in the public school system. The student I interpreted for was an attractive, well-liked athlete. Though she had a few friends who used sign language with her, I interpreted most every interaction she had with teachers and classmates, as she never used her own voice.

I enjoyed my role there. It allowed me to have an eye and ear into situations I would never have otherwise been invited to: private counseling sessions, high school girlfriend talk, basketball team huddles, and lots of others. But there were some things for which interpreting was nearly impossible. Like pep rallies. Even if I could have understood the words to the music above the deep pounding of bass, it went way too fast. But the words mattered little. It was the music that moved people.

And so this student didn’t need me to interpret the words to the songs. She didn’t need me to tell her that music was playing. She could see evidence of the music in every one of her moving peers. Every person with working ears couldn’t help but respond to the music. And so all she had to do to dance was watch her classmates move around her and follow their lead.

We think we know what it means to change the world, to do big things and small things with good intentions. We know how to act right. We know how to dance. But we don’t always hear the music. Oh to learn what it means to hear and truly listen to the melodic voice of God as he speaks invisible, to be inspired to action from within rather than pressured from without.

All of our listening doesn’t have to look the same. Listening may move me to do something completely different from you. Give yourself permission to impact the world in the unique ways only you can do, and extend grace to those around you to do the same.

Portions of this post were adapted from my book, Grace for the Good Girl.

change the world {day 26} :: see

In America, 100,000 children are forced into sexual slavery every year. See.

Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (U.S.$1.25 per day). See.

There were 75 children in a Haitian orphanage who were at risk of being trafficked. The signatures of thousands changed everything. See.

Amit Gupta needs a bone marrow transplant. See.

Relief and development projects in Africa can be funded for the cost of two mocha’s per month. See.

There are thousands of needs I could have listed here. I’m offering a few, but this list is feeble, really. I can’t tell you what to see. The children may sit small at your table, the co-workers may bristle at your talk of God, the mailman may come and go without a word, your teenage daughter may roll her eyes when you start asking questions. You may be haunted with images of hungry children across the world or across town, or you may be burdened with the hungry souls in your middle-class church. Still, there is hunger. Do you see it?

Anyone can look, and often everyone does. But only the world changers see.

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.