Friday, July 9, 2010

Whining in the land of plenty

"I DO NOT want to make another shopping trip! I hate this--it's not fair! Whaaaaaaaaa!!!" Whining is not attractive, especially when it is me (not my kids) who are whining. Allow me to explain. I do not like taking my girls (ages 4 and 6) grocery shopping with me, especially for big trips. From the looks I get, I suspect that the other customers in the store and our cashier aren't too fond of it, either.

During the school year, I can usually schedule my time so that I can go to the store by myself, but during the summer, my girls often go with me.

Before we are in the store, the girls are arguing about who gets to sit in which kid's seat in the cart. Soon, there is a chorus of "Gimmie this! Gimmie that!" ringing in my ears. I am always amazed at the "wingspan" of Mika and Macy as they stretch both arms out to grab items they want off the shelves with uncanny precision. Then one child touches the other without permission, and there is a shouting match and a call for me to referee. By the time we make our way to the car, I have told each of them to "be quiet!" "sit down!" "put that back!" "stop hitting your sister!" and "YOU'RE EMBARRASSING ME!" approximately 1000 times.

In the past, as a prelude to an upcoming shopping trip, I would begin to complain about taking a shopping trip with my daughters, who ought to know how to act better by now, but due to some defective parenting on my part, don't.

Then I read this quote in Ron Sider's "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:"

"Sometimes I think, 'If I die I won't have to see my children suffering as they are.' Sometimes I even think of killing myself. So often I see them crying, hungry, and there I am, without a cent to buy them some bread. I think, 'My God, I can't face it! I'll end my life. I don't want to look anymore!" --Iracema de Silva, resident of a slum in Brazil

I was shaken by the realization that there are literally hundreds of millions of mothers in the world who are watching their children starve who would joyfully walk many miles in their bare feet with all eight of their children in tow if they could find a store that had something, anything, for them to eat.

And I complain about the inconvenience of driving my two little ones to Wal-Mart and enduring a little sibling rivalry and condescending looks from other shoppers while I stuff my cart full of food?

So, I am done whining about taking my kids grocery shopping with me. I am also done complaining because the store is out of an ingredient for a recipe I want to prepare for that evening. So what, I have to cook something else or stop at another store with my kids?

I promise to no longer complain about the "high cost of food." Our basket is overflowing with all the food our bodies need plus many extras as well--Fritos, Tinkerbell fruit snacks, and Blue Bell Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream. And it is a privilege to have enough money to pay for ALL of it.

The point of reflecting on quotes like the one above from the anguished mother in Brazil is not to make me feel guilty, but to cause me to feel grateful.

So if you happen to see me and my girls in the grocery store and I look like I'm about to lose it, please remind me to have a heart of gratitude for the remarkable blessing of buying groceries for my family each week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bono's Bible Study

"The Bible says that if you care for the poor, God will have your back." This astounding statement was made by none other than Bono, who was being interviewed a couple of years ago by Oprah. I didn't believe Bono, so I opened my Bible to Isaiah 58, and this is what I read:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." Isaiah 58:6-9

Who knew an Irish rock star with funky glasses could have such wisdom? Indeed, God looks out for those who are generous and care for the poor and needy. His ears are receptive to the prayers of those who spend themselves on behalf of the less fortunate. This is not just an Old Testament promise to the nation of Israel; this principle is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament as well, by Jesus, his disciples, and the Apostle Paul, among others.

Since stumbling on Isaiah 58, I have discovered that there are over 2000 verses which pertain to money, possessions, poverty, oppression, widows, orphans, and social justice. Sure, because I've been in a Bible church all my life I've heard a number of these verses here and there in a sermon or Bible study, but I've been overwhelmed by the enormity of what God's word has to say on this subject--more than what the Bible says about faith, prayer, or heaven and hell combined.

Learning what the Bible teaches has been easy compared to trying to absorb these verses and figure out what it means for my affluent and privileged existence, comfortably separated from poverty (local, national, and international) in my suburb where the median household income is $106,873.

I really like what Randy Alcorn says, "We're not to feel guilty that God has entrusted an abundance to us. But we are to feel compassionately and wisely use that abundance to help the less fortunate."

The question for myself is, "How do I balance honoring God by appreciating and enjoying the material blessings he has given me with being generous with my time, money, and resources to those who are truly needy?"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Reading about poverty at the nail salon

So there I sat: reading "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" while getting a spa pedicure. While the nail technician delicately rubbed expensive lotion between my toes, I learned that thousands of children starved to death during the time it took me to receive a pedicure. Next, I was off to get a Frappuccino from Starbucks. Seriously?

Now I understand what it means that "God comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable." My cushy suburban life with all the trappings was on a collision course with a whole host of verses I'd never really considered before that seemed to be leaping off the pages of my Bible.

I have been so immersed in the affluent lifestyle of square footage, a stylish wardrobe, expensive dinners, luxury vacations, and a plethora of activities designed to keep my children entertained, that I began to call into question my claim that I serve a Savior who identifies with the broken, the oppressed, the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.

As a Mom, I have become increasingly alarmed that I am teaching my young daughters to pursue the things the world says are important instead of the things God says are important.

I've begun this blog hoping to find others, especially Moms, who wonder if the comfortable suburban life is all there is, or is there something we are missing?