Lip-Synced Faith, Radical Christianity and What Really Fills

January 24, 2013 | 37 comments

We step off the plane from Haiti, and the TV headline blares at us, with the “burning question” of our day: Did Beyonce lip-sync or did she not? 

I can only stare at the screen and blink. This? This is what consumes us in America?

And somewhere in Haiti, a woman dries mud pies in the sun. She will try to mask the pain of her family’s hunger with dirt, but it will never really fill.

 

And what does it really mean to be the least of these? Because I’m pretty sure I met some of the richest people on the planet this week , right there in abject-poor Haiti — rich in love and mercy and hospitality and gratitude. Rich in worship, these souls who bring worn Bibles to worship, who cry out their adoration of the Savior, who lift their hands high and higher still, singing with the angels. It was a dance-party in the pews, with Bibles and palms and tear-stained faces rising heavenward. The Good Book says that God is enthroned on the praises of His people, and I would NOT be surprised if three-quarters of our Lord’s throne were marked with these three words: “Made in Haiti.”

This is what it means to praise Him, not merely lip-syncing the words like mouthed abstractions of theology, but a deep adoration that takes your soul face-first onto the floor of the throne room.

Somewhere in Haiti, today, a woman feeds her and her family dirt for breakfast.
So I do have to ask myself: What is the dirt I am consuming, masking my hunger for real nourishment? How soon will I demand fuller cupboards, a new pair of jeans, a more trendy coat of paint, another pair of black boots? I really could remain malnourished in the worst way. It would be easy. Might it be true that living here in America is one way to actually starve?

Oh, God, I am hungry for you — a hunger only you can fill. Holy Spirit, Guard. Our. Hearts. Against everything false that promises to fill. I want to be radically in love with You, Jesus, not living some sort of lip-synced version of Christianity.

***

I am sitting in the Fort Lauderdale airport terminal, with the Beyonce-debate blaring on the screens, and I turn away. I flip on the iPhone to check email. First email in my inbox is this: “What Does a bit of Radical Christianity Really Look Like — Right Where You Are?” It’s a blog post by my dear friend, fellow pig-farmer’s wife and Jesus-sister, Ann Voskamp. Her words wrap tightly around my Christ-hungry heart.

In the airport terminal, I read Ann’s words over and over again: “Is it even possible to be a radical Christ-follower — and own a mini-van, have more than one bathroom, order clothes from Land’s End, and lay your head down on a pillow when He had none? Really? What is the North American church really supposed to do? Anyone want to buy the hogs so we can go? What are mothers really supposed to do?” 

Sister Ann … I am with you. I want to fight the middle ground, want to live what I believe, want to make love deposits right where I am — and also where I cannot be, want to get a little bit radical for Jesus. 

Two days earlier, my pig farmer and I were sitting side-by-side in the cab of a pickup truck, right there in Haiti. He was driving down the dirt road, far from the fields and the hogs. He had his work-worn hands gripping that wheel, wearing his “Made to Worship” T-shirt with the cut-off sleeves. Back home, every day, my favorite farmer drives a pickup truck, and in the spring, the back-end is filled with stacked bags of seeds. On that afternoon in Haiti, we carried the most precious cargo of all: God’s children, a gaggle of twelve giggling orphans, seeds of Haiti’s future. We were driving the children back down the hill to their orphanage.

My favorite farmer and I looked at each other, smiling, shaking our heads, in awe over the indescribable moment as we bumped down that narrow road.

Later, someone would stop by that same orphanage, to report that a mother had abandoned her baby in a nearby village. The father was alive, but unable to properly care for the child. A few of us followed the roads back up the hill, to find the baby, malnourished and weak and naked. My friends, Michelle and Renae, held the baby in the cab. I sat in the back of the truck, under the Haitian sun, next to that stoic father, who went with us to sign over the appropriate papers to give away his son.

Michelle called the baby’s father a modern-day Abraham, being asked to give up his Isaac.

What Isaacs could I give up right here, where I am? To what am I clinging, that is holding me back from radical Christianity? I really was Made to Worship. Am I living what I was made for? 

I may be asking myself that one question for a while, fighting for the right answers in a world filled with wrong answers and false saviors and proverbial mud pies for the soul.

Some experiences in life feel so big, and the words seem so small. Haiti is one such experience.

There is more to tell, and maybe someday I’ll find the words to wrap around it all.

Or maybe I won’t.

I pray that in the haze of years, I won’t forget the mud pies, or the ocean foam at my feet, the goats in the school kitchen, watching a movie with 100 Haitian children gathered under the moon, brown hands in white hands, the tears streaming as I prayed with my ViBella sisters; the old lady, Adelize, who crawls out of bed every morning because she cannot walk, and she lays on a piece of cardboard. I met her nine months ago, and she’s been on my heart every day since, so I brought her a blanket and a meal — such small sacrifice, and I’m no hero. Jesus is the only hero in my life, and I fall down at his feet just now, next to the Haitian people. And we were all made to worship. So I lift a hand, lift a hand up for the only One who can fill the deepest hunger known to man.

Fill me, Lord.  

A less-than-two-minute video recap of our trip (subscribers can click here to view):

by | January 24, 2013 | 37 comments

37 Comments

  1. Lori

    Oh Jennifer…all these posts from Haiti get me and I am so with you. When I log onto the computer I skip over the headlines as fast as I can because….they….mean…nothing!! What an incredible post! And what a joy that your whole family went together. My heart rejoices with posts like these. Thank you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It was amazing, Lori. I am grappling for the right words. I suspect we’ll all be processing it for a good long while. Thanks for joining us in the journey. You’re a sweet friend.

      Reply
  2. Ro elliott

    I can’t imagine the jolt to you system…may His love ,grace and mercy walk you and your family through processing all you experienced in Him this last week. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to gleaning in the days to come. Ps every time I wear the necklace I ordered I get compliments…people asking where I got it…it is a walking advertisement for for Vibella and a chance to tell the glorious story!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      “JOLT” is just the right word, Ro. It’s been a teary kind of morning. I’m missing our Haitian friends, but am emboldened in my spirit about what we can do to spread Jesus’ love to others. Thank you for being a part of the ViBella story. You’re making a real impact on REAL WOMEN when you wear that necklace!

      Reply
  3. Julie

    Woke up to those same headlines this morning and my hubby and I looked at each other and said “So this is what they consider the news?” Ugh.

    Praying for you all as you process your trip. Thank you for your words- for this is the kind of news we need….

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Julie … Thank you for your prayers. I especially would appreciate prayers for the girls as they were “thrown back in” to their life here pretty quickly. We were home at 11:30 p.m., and they were on the schoolbus at 7:45 a.m.

      Reply
  4. Gramma T

    What a wonderful post friend. And how much we enjoyed your trip as you kept us in touch as you went about Gods work in His people in Haiti. A blessing indeed to be a part of it all through you and the others by your side.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Sandy! I can’t wait to share with you in more detail. Your frassy daughter was a hoot, as usual, bringing smiles and laughter and Jesus-light to everyone around her!

      Reply
  5. Susan Lantz

    Thank you for sharing your trip to Haiti! I hope and pray their healing will come faster! Stories like yours and others, this is news we can use!!!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you Susan, for stopping by and encouraging us here in the comment box. Praying for healing with you …

      Reply
  6. jp

    Wow! I can tell it had an impact. So happy for you all and hope that you always keep a piece of Haiti in your hearts. It has been awesome watching your family on the journey!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It did have quite an impact. I can’t wait for you and Anne to get down there someday soon. You will touch lives, and your lives will be touched. Let’s talk soon!

      Reply
  7. Linda

    Oh Jennifer – I have no words. Just tears and a longing.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I am having trouble coming up with words for it all. My words seem so small, for an experience that feels so big.

      Reply
  8. deby

    A dear friend of ours, Andy Caley, just returned from a Haiti mission trip this past Saturday. How God changes our hearts through what we think of as “the poor”. Praying that our all will be opened to “the poor” wherever we walk. Thank you for sharing!!

    Reply
  9. Fawn Weaver

    What’s so fascinating is I’d not heard anything about this headline (I try to skip passed that stuff) but when I read it here I Googled it and was amazed at how many news stations covered the story as if it was a national tragedy. So sad…

    Reply
  10. Karen

    They have so much more spiitually when possessions don’t hinder them. You were so blessed to make this trip~ I am praying to do mission work someday 🙂

    Reply
  11. Megan Willome

    Oh, Jennifer.

    That picture of Scott driving the truck with that huge smile–that one got me the most. Hope that isn’t wrong to say. There’s something there.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Not wrong or weird at all. Thanks for being a part of this, Megan, for being here and for praying.

      Reply
  12. Dea

    Yes, that farmer you hang out with, he was hauling seeds just they are living and breathing seed, the hope of Haiti. You and your family fertilized those precious seeds with love. Others there in Haiti are tending their field. We now pray as they grow that their lives will bear fruit to God’s glory. Many of us have gone to Haiti and come back without words. It’s a challenge to tend our own fields to spread “fertilizer” on the fields where God has placed us when sometimes we can’t even lip sync our worship because we don’t know the words. We can’t even sing unless someone hands a book or puts the words on a screen like a karaoke machine. I for one will raise my hand and say “Guilty as charged.” But guilt is no excuse when the penalty of my sin has been paid. I am humbled by this post and I thank God that I am.

    Reply
  13. Laura

    Speechless and weepy here too, Jennifer. Oh, friend. How you look like your Daddy.

    Reply
  14. Dolly@Soulstops

    wow…how precious…to be there as a family…and how hard to come back…thanks for going and sharing, Jennifer.

    Reply
  15. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Jennifer, so heartrendingly told, so inimaginable, so beautiful. This is a post that goes straight to the heart–not just with pathos, but piercing. Your arrow has struck deeply. Do what tripe and trivia do I cling? What mask do I wear? What faith do I lip-sync? What truly matters?! Those who have so little have everything. They have God in a way that I do not know. I can’t pull out the arrow without bleeding.

    Reply
  16. Leah Adams

    I believe God calls us to live out radical Christianity right where He has placed us. Surely some are called to go to the Haitis of this world, but there is so much lostness right where we each live. I’ve asked God to help me be all He desires for me to be. I’ve asked Him to open doors of opportunity to share Jesus and give me eyes to see and a heart to feel the need. He is doing it and I am walking in relationship with folks I would normally never spend time with. That, I believe, is a bit of radical Christianity. Just doing what God directs.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, Leah … Right where we are. We might go to Haiti, but we DEFINITELY need to look for opportunities in our very own neighborhoods. Thanks friend.

      Reply
  17. floyd

    Hard not to feel your emotions sitting here in comfort in front of my laptop… Man oh man. We so don’t get it… I’ll ponder your words.. and heart. Your heart is the one we all need to share if we truly serve Who it is we say we do.

    Reply
  18. Julie

    Gripping. Challenging. Thank you, Jennifer for finding the words for some of your experiences. I love the image of worshipping around the throne with those “made in Haiti” worshippers. Makes me think, what’s “making” me a worshipper that is fit to fall before the throne?

    Reply
  19. Stephie

    Your words and pictures are so moving Jennifer! Thank you and your family for sharing your experiences in Haiti.

    Reply
  20. Nancy Franson

    Just undone here. The pictures of your girls playing and serving and loving on their new friends–I can only imagine the seeds taking deep root in their hearts.

    So glad you included the video. Loved hearing my Haitian brothers and sisters sing!

    Reply
  21. SimplyDarlene

    this is partly why we live simple and do lots of things the old-fashioned way (cook on wood cookstove, dishes by hand, baths outside) – so we remain thankful and have an easier time remembering those who have it way tougher than us.

    what a gift you’ve given your girls.

    blessings.

    Reply
  22. Jillie

    “This is what it means to praise Him, not merely lip-syncing the words like mouthed abstractions of theology, but a deep adoration that takes your soul face-first onto the floor of the throne room.”
    Oh Jennifer…You have broken me with these words!
    It quite honestly angers me when I see what America (and Canada) use to fill their minds and their time and their preoccupations with. Where, oh where, is the true depth of character today? Where is True Love for fellow man? It is here, in what you write today. Because I KNOW they come from the heart of a family who walks as Jesus walked. How can we not all fall face down on the floor of His throne room for the Haitian people after reading this?!?

    Reply
  23. Betty Jo

    An incredible post Jennifer! I’ve missed a lot, due to life happenings, but will read backwards to catch up. It’s amazing what “captures” the attention of our country, isn’t it? Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  24. Amy Sullivan

    Good ‘ol Beyonce puts it in perspective doesn’t she? Geesh.

    Beautiful recap video.

    I know we only know each other through the online world, but I’m pretty sure those mud pies will be etched into your heart forever.

    Reply
  25. Lyla Lindquist

    Welcome home, friends. Looking forward to a chat soon. 🙂

    Reply
  26. Susan Stilwell

    Such a good post, Jennifer. I’m so excited to see how the Lord moved on your trip. It was a privilege to pray for you.

    I had some of those same when I returned from Belize in October. As it happens, I’m teaching through Amos right now, and while most people shirk from obscure OT minor prophets, his words ring in my ears as a message for America. I feel like Isaiah when he said, “I am undone!”

    I’m leaving for Guatemala next week with Jeff Goins’ “Wrecked” trip. As undone as I am now, it’s hard to tell what I’ll be when I get back.

    Reply
  27. Nancy Ruegg

    You and your family are proof that God takes willingness and turns it into passion and joy. Thank you for your sacrifice of time and effort to help in Haiti.

    Your experience upon returning home is common, I think. Experts warn us about culture shock, when we visit third world countries, but few mention the shock upon reentry to the States. Somehow the consumerism, waste, shallowness, and selfishness are all the more glaring after seeing the dire plight of others.

    Reply
  28. Allyson Siwajian

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I am in awe of your writing style, this way God has truly gifted you to communicate His truth. Too often I find myself lip-syncing and forgetting what pursuits will really make me “rich.” Thanks for this reminder to focus on others, serve God so completely, and dare to be just a bit radical for Jesus.

    Reply

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