Wall Decor

February 11, 2017
This week I am in the process of framing and hanging these 4 covers on our dining room wall. And not (only) because it is an incredibly inexpensive form of wall art. These magazine covers represent a period of only a few months, but they illustrate a time that God used to dramatically show me more of Himself and his calling on my life.
I blamed Jeff for a while that he just subscribed to the New Yorker to look sophisticated in the midst of our bite-sized news consumption at the time. But as each of these covers arrived on our doorstep, they poignantly reminded me of the events which shaped that period of many people’s lives in America, including my own. A time when I was slammed in the face with the reality that this world is not as it should be, but at the same moment God was working within and through his Church to bring renewal and hope in a dark and hurting place.
It started close to home. Living in St. Louis during the events of Ferguson would forever change me. I watched as a city threatened to be torn apart by racial division, suspicion, hatred, and fear. I drove through impromptu, raucous protests with a racing heart and sweaty palms. But I saw the church stand up. I observed My home church and others fight against this division and fear to push towards unity. The “uncommon family” I was a part of wasn’t closing its arms around its own walls but reaching out into the city and bringing people in to talk about what true unity through the power of the gospel can mean. I walked in marches of my own singing the hymns of ultimate victory we have in Christ. And it changed me.
Then I watched as the nation reeled in response to the series of painful losses that plagued those following months. And as the whole world turned to the city of Paris and mourned with them in the aftermath of terror striking their country. But in these times, I watched God work through his church to bring hope. To bring messages of peace, not just to people who agree with us. To bring the redemptive, life-altering message that none of us deserve what Jesus offers, but yet he freely gives.

The most heart-breaking but most beautifully transformative moments, though, was in the aftermath of the shooting at Mother Emmanuel in Charleston, SC. When a group of Christians brought a stranger into their midst and then were killed by the very person they showed kindness. But that wasn’t the strongest point of this series of events, was it? Do you remember? It was the shocking, disrupting, but-for-the-grace-of-God incomprehensible moment when the families of the victims stood up and forgave the killer. All while the nation looked on. Such a beautiful display of forgiveness was possible because they knew of what they had been forgiven. They knew they didn’t deserve the grace and forgiveness they had received from their Heavenly Father, so they could offer grace to the killer in their midst. Truly flooring.After pulling these magazines out of our boxes from home, I have been thinking a lot about how those 6 months or so changed the way I thought and are influencing the way I live my life here in Tokyo. I re-watched the eulogy Former President Obama gave at Rev. Pickney’s memorial service. Earlier this month, I had listened to an interview with the speech writer for this (and many other) speeches the then-President gave. He talked about how important this speech was in his memory of those years and how foreign this idea of unearned grace as the benevolent gift of God was to him. This part of the speech was written entirely by the Former President. Although he shrugged it off in the interview, I can’t help but think of how he and many others were thrown into the face of the truth of the Gospel in a way that was utterly captivating. But what I am thinking about much more now is how these events are challenging they way we desire to church plant in Tokyo. In another part of this speech he talks about the role the African-American church has played in history.

“Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.  They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter.  (Applause.)”

Although I am sad this stopped short of identifying the true impetus behind these actions – that we have been radically and undeservingly loved by our Creator who sent his son to take on our punishment and invites us into a relationship with him that this sacrifice makes possible – it was a beautiful picture of the Church’s role in the community where it’s placed. This is why we reach out into places that are hurting, why we push into division and call for unity, why we stand in the face of violence and forgive. I want these pictures to remind us of how we want to love and serve our new home in Tokyo. To let the amazing truth of the Gospel push us into this city with a passion for its welfare and a love for its people that only God can provide.

On a related note of an entirely different tone – does anyone know how best to frame a magazine? I am woefully bad at home decor.

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