America: The Home I Love
I’ve hiked in the Alps and jumped waves in the French Riviera. I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and peered into the Roman Coliseum. I’ve walked in the “favelas” (poor neighborhoods) of Brazil and avoided the potholes in Ukraine. But even with all these international adventures, something special ignited in my heart every time my family landed on American soil. Whatever airport we stepped into—in New York, Atlanta, Dallas, or Miami—my heart knew I was home.
What makes America home to you?
To me, America is the place that freedom lives. The place where we still crave independence from oppression. It’s home to family and friends who love God and strive to make the world a better place. America is hope in the midst of tragedy, of good people reaching out to others who need shelter, healing, or a voice.
America is Caucasian police officers bringing candy and toys to predominantly African-American neighborhoods and building a rapport with the children of those communities. It’s an African-American grandmother stopping in the park to pray for a local fair-skinned cop. America is churches of different denominations gathering together for worship and prayer. America is retired nurses and doctors driving hours across state lines to take care of COVID-19 patients. To me, the true “American” spirit is a spirit of strength, kindness, and sacrifice.
On this July Fourth weekend, we may not be able to celebrate as we normally would, gathering in huge crowds to watch fireworks or sing anthems. But we can celebrate in our hearts, homes, and elsewhere what makes America home to us. I celebrate the good I see Americans doing, and “good” is exactly what God has directed us to do.
“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 NKJV)
God’s call to “do good” is tailored for every generation. Some “good” never changes, like showing love, spreading kindness, and sharing the gospel. But how we do those good things is tailored for our present-day circumstances. Today we have resources that America’s first leaders didn’t have, like radio, television, and the internet. Our reach today is broader, and that means our light can shine farther than ever before. We can do good with the resources we have and adapt our message for every person seeking independence.
The founding fathers saw it as good to declare independence from tyranny and oppression. Today let us declare independence from the tyranny of fear and prejudice. Let us declare independence from worry and despair. We can seek God’s help to stay free from harmful habits or detrimental ways of thinking. We can strive to make a difference so others may experience freedom in Christ. And God calls us to never stop doing good.
“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
Don’t lose heart, America. Let’s be a part of the good that we want to see happen in this country that we call home. Let’s declare that our hearts belong to Jesus and we want everyone possible to know Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus is the greatest good we can share at home and around the world. If we are faithful in our generation, with God’s help we can reap a harvest of great good.
When we first moved into our current home, I was less than impressed with the overall architecture and aesthetics of the space. It took me a little while to gather my emotions and settle in to the fact that the only way I’d truly be at peace would be to turn lemons into lemonade and start making this place a home. Our home. I knew what God had already placed in my heart for this home. I knew we wanted it to be a place where people felt welcome and accepted. It would be a place that wasn’t only aesthetically pleasing to those who entered but would speak to their weary souls in more ways than one. Those were the things that were important to me, and, on many occasions, God and I talked about it. It was a sincere and earnest prayer of my heart that became a reality as I trusted Him and not the things I chose to bring into the house.
I’ve also learned the hard way that when I choose to do the opposite, it yields nothing but confusion and chaos. What is the point of that unrest, and what price am I willing to pay for peace? To avoid being distracted in this way, I have often had to remind myself of what is amazing about our home; and the answer is never what we sit on or walk on, but the people who fill it.
Sometimes that peace for me has come in the form of choosing to step away from distractions around me like extra social events (as much as I love a good party), overcommitting to hosting events, or volunteering for too many projects with church or the kids’ schools. Sometimes that peace looks like disconnecting from reading things that don’t help invigorate or revive my creative process.
Try taking a moment to evaluate your level of peace, and edit some things in your life that may be sucking the life right out of you. Chances are, without my mentioning a word, you already know what those things are.
Think about Mary and Martha. Give me a woman alive who hasn’t cringed at that story a little. I bet you know it, and the moral of the story: that our time with God is the most important thing. This is what Mary chose.
Jesus even said to Martha:
Martha, Martha… you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. — Luke 10:41-42
Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and make Him her restful and peaceful place for that time.
But again, cringe. Of course, time with God is most important. We know this, but we also know everyone has to eat, so food has to be prepared, dishes and pots and pans need to be washed, and kids have to be cared for. Choosing God over all of the things we have to do isn’t the easiest feat. It’s not easy to break away from all the e-mails, the overtime, the friends, the piles of laundry, the never-ending meal planning, or the shuttling of kids. Life calls, and most times, depending on the season of life, it screams obnoxiously until we answer.
Mary, however, didn’t consider the time that Jesus was there to be an interruption. Instead, it was a time to reflect, relate, and be still, knowing that she could trust God to ensure that the other things that needed to be taken care of would ultimately be handled.
There’s a lot of discussion around this popular Bible story, especially among many women who tend to lean more toward a Martha mentality. (Don’t worry, girls, I am right there with you.)
I tend to concern myself too much with what’s not done in my home or what needs to be done. And I find that the more and more I choose to do that, the softer the voice of God becomes in my life. It then becomes easier and easier to do instead of just be.
In our homes, we are meant to live — no doubt. But there is so much more to how we live in our homes with the people we love than what we do alone.
A Place for Detox
I’d like to think Mary was doing the most needed type of detox and perhaps the best kind of all — detox for her soul. She found it by sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Sometimes this is just what we need. Well, maybe more than sometimes. We need it all the time, but life is fast-paced. Our schedules are weighted by tasks and our brains overloaded by the incomplete and the yet to begin. I don’t think God is as concerned with those things as we tend to become. He wants us, beckons even, to come and sit at His feet for a while. Somehow when we choose that needed thing, everything else seems to melt away and those lists are the least of our concerns. It frees up our souls to soar and be more productive in our days and more purposeful in the way we live. It’s what we were created for, and there’s no peace in this world like it that any temporary fix can give.
I want to encourage you to create a space in your home for sitting at Jesus’ feet.
This should be a space you can’t wait to get away to — somewhere reserved for communing with God and maybe reading your favorite books or whatever you choose to do at that time. I always think I can have quiet time anywhere (and I can if I try hard enough), but when I’m sitting at the kitchen table my mind wanders to the dishes in the sink or the grocery shopping I need to do later. Ditto with the living room and the basket of kids’ toys that need to be put away and the basket of laundry I need to fold.
It’s easier to take the time we need with God when we are intentional about setting the stage to do so.
This spot should be cozy and beautiful — even if it’s just a comfy chair with a side table to hold your Bible and a pretty houseplant. Place the chair toward a lovely view out the window or facing a piece of art you’ve always loved. Make it the spot in the house you long to be, and you’ll find yourself there often. Remember that you’re not striving for perfection here; this is a place where you come to shed that and all the other weights you carry. But it should be a space that fits you and fits you well.
“Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served … the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15 ESV
James Russell Lowell was a respected poet. Although he graduated from Harvard with a degree in law, he ultimately pursued a career as a writer, frequently speaking out against slavery. As the son of a pastor, he also was inspired by Biblical ideas.
In 1845 as the country faced war with Mexico, Lowell wrote a poem called, “Once to Every Man and Nation.” Later his words became the basis for an oft-sung hymn.
Lowell described the key moment for individuals and nations. The moment “to decide” and to realize that a decision was needed about their direction and what they really believe.
Lowell argued the importance of siding with truth, regardless of the outcome or opinions of others. It always was proper and brave “to be just” and to do what was “right.”
Looking back at history, Lowell reflected on the “light of burning martyrs.” He considered the example of Jesus who went to the cross and never turned back. Following His example, we face “new occasions,” times when we need to make life-changing decisions.
It may appear that evil will prosper, but we need to be confident that “the truth alone is strong.” God is with us, “keeping watch above His own.”
Lowell echoed the stand taken by Joshua, reminding us that we all have choices. These are moments to take a stand. We need to make a commitment to serve the Lord and to trust Him.
Streams in the Desert – July 3
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? (Isa. 28:24).
One day in early summer I walked past a beautiful meadow. The grass was as soft and thick and fine as an immense green Oriental rug. In one corner stood a fine old tree, a sanctuary for numberless wild birds; the crisp, sweet air was full of their happy songs. Two cows lay in the shade, the very picture of content. Down by the roadside the saucy dandelion mingled his gold with the royal purple of the wild violet. I leaned against the fence for a long time, feasting my hungry eyes, and thinking in my soul that God never made a fairer spot than my lovely meadow.
The next day I passed that way again, and lo! the hand of the despoiler had been there. A plowman and his great plow, now standing idle in the furrow, had in a day wrought a terrible havoc. Instead of the green grass there was turned up to view the ugly, bare, brown earth; instead of the singing birds there were only a few hens industriously scratching for worms. Gone were the dandelion and the pretty violet. I said in my grief, “How could any one spoil a thing so fair?”
Then my eyes were opened by some unseen hand, and I saw a vision, a vision of a field of ripe corn ready for the harvest. I could see the giant, heavily laden stalks in the autumn sun; I could almost hear the music of the wind as it would sweep across the golden tassels. And before I was aware, the brown earth took on a splendor it had not had the day before.
Oh, that we might always catch the vision of an abundant harvest, when the great Master Plowman comes, as He often does, and furrows through our very souls, uprooting and turning under that which we thought most fair, and leaving for our tortured gaze only the bare and the unbeautiful.
Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh the deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman, He purposeth a crop.