Posted by: amylamb | September 3, 2014

Old Man Wright: A Eulogy

Affectionately I called him “Old Man Wright” because he was, in fact, old for my entire life. Born November 13, 1918 up in the hills of east Tennessee, my Grandaddy was a coal-minin’, field-farmin’, truck-drivin’, (Vy-EE-ner)-sausage-eatin’ country boy turned city dweller. He loved bluegrass music, televangelists, cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster, and the good Lord Jesus; but not necessarily in that order.

He was known f267206_630630940280561_446723603_nor his extraordinary musical ability, eating breakfast three times a day, arriving everywhere an hour early, and sending birthday cards twice a year so he wouldn’t miss one. His house usually smelled of bacon and burnt coffee because he rarely remembered to turn the coffeemaker off. Each day he could be found awake at 3:30a.m., tapping his code diligently into a ham radio. He changed every thermostat he saw to 89 degrees fahrenheit regardless of the outside temperature– he considered this his service to society.

Though he never quite figured out how to use a cell phone, he often wrote letters detailing the status of his garden, the contents of his mailbox, and the activities of the cats who lived in his garage. His letters I kept, frequently revisiting them whenever I need a laugh. One of my favorites was written around my 21st birthday, in which he wrote, “go buy yourself a can of snuff.” Politely I declined his request (but proceeded to post it all over social media because it was, in fact, hilarious).

But I digress, for rarely did he end a phone call without reminding me to “remember the good Lord in all you do, and I reckon you’ll be alright.” Some of my earliest memories were made sitting on his knee while his mandolin rested on the other– there I learned the hymns of faith that bore him ever forward.

Older than sliced bread itself (no really, that didn’t come around until 1928), he outlived the Great Depression, five wars, the discovery and subsequent demotion of Pluto, the terms of 15 1/2 presidents, and three pacemaker batteries. He also survived his wife Rebecca by 15 years, though he was never quite the same once she was gone. Regardless, he spoke of her frequently and fondly; eager for the day when he would see her again. While he waited, he prayed he would fulfill whatever “the good Lord” had still for him to do on earth; which perhaps, in his case, it was simply to love and be loved.

I’d say 95 years of that is a pretty good run– A life well-lived; a life well-loved. Nevertheless, I’ll miss my “Old Man Wright.”

Posted by: amylamb | November 11, 2013

Strengthen What Remains

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The dirt road before me wound endlessly through the rolling green hills of a country far from home. Not once on the three-hour trek did I encounter another soul; a telltale sign of the desolation of my destination. My reflection in the dirt-stained window grew fainter as dusk began to settle over the hills beyond. I hope I can find them in the dark, I thought.

The image of a distant village grew clearer as I approached, still unsure how I would find the ones I came to meet. But there, on the main street, I saw her — a woman with greying hear pulled loosely atop her head and long skirts blowing gently in the evening breeze — and I knew she was the one I was looking for. There’s something about the compassion behind those eyes and the joy behind that smile that I could recognize anywhere in the world …

I left my shoes on the threshold of her home and entered quietly. She led me up a rickety staircase to an empty room with a large window that overlooked the village below. There I sat, cross-legged on the floor, watching people slowly trickle in from every direction against the backdrop of the setting sun. Before long, darkness had set in completely and the room seemed to be illuminated only by the shared, undeniable glow on the faces of the family of God.

No Bible, songbook, instrument, or podium could be found — but strangely, it didn’t seem to matter. Scripture and songs recited by guests were spontaneously met with heartfelt “amens” and “hallelujahs.” A basket in the corner overflowed with the generous gifts of the sacrificial. Somewhere within the songs, the prayers, the laughter, the stories, and the gratitude, I think I saw it — a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Communities like these continue to gather all over the world, some risking their lives to do so. Though the gatherings are small, the power within is enough to change the world. These are the few who remain in the face of persecution; and if we listen closely, we will hear the call to “Wake up, and strengthen what remains …” (Revelation 3:2)

Learn how here.

Posted by: amylamb | November 1, 2013

For Those Who Wait

The sun was just beginning to peer over the horizon when the Muslim call to prayer woke me from a deep sleep. Groggily I stumbled to the window, peering between the bars to see the cobblestone street below. Children clutched the hands of their mothers as men navigated their wheelbarrows full of goods to the market. A beggar squatted at the corner, wearily extending his hand to passerby.

Later that day I gazed out the car window as the driver coasted slowly between the concrete walls guarded by soldiers balancing enormous weapons. Once past the soldiers, we drove down dusty streets, narrowly missing grazing livestock and passing motorcycles.

Some time later, we arrived. I stepped across the threshold and was greeted by a woman whom I had never before seen nor spoken to. With sparkling eyes and a glowing smile, she kissed my cheek and whispered in labored yet beautiful English, “welcome, my sister. We have been waiting for you.”

There’s something powerful about the family of Christ. Though we are separated by distance, language, and culture, we share a bond more powerful than death: the thread of Christ’s grace that runs endlessly through our lives.

As the body of Christ, we are called to strengthen the bond between believers across the globe. We invest our lives into the cause for which Christ died: that we may be one, no matter what the cost.

We work for the woman in that distant country — the woman who faithfully prays and waits for her sister to come.

As you enjoy the presence of the family of God today, remember those who risk their lives to do the same. To learn more about how to encourage them today, click here.

Posted by: amylamb | September 12, 2013

Who I’m Supporting for AL01 (And Why)

As an undergraduate student, I met a man with big ideas. He spoke with such truth and conviction that I was stirred to action, despite my disdain for politics. The core idea he conveyed is this:

“…absolutely no good reason exists to keep religion, or people of faith, from the American public square. … If faith and reason inform each other, as believers know they do, then one cannot force faith to withdraw without ensuring that the results will be significantly less than fully reasonable” (Faith Belongs in Politics, 2012).

The idea that faith and politics could — in fact, must — work together was revolutionary to me. In fact, it sparked the largest research project I have ever undertaken, a work in which the acknowledgements bear the name of the man with big ideas: Quin Hillyer.

My point: great things happen when big ideas collide with the ability to do something about them. Though many candidates are in the running for the September 24 election, Quin stands out because he has both the ideas and the ability.

Quin’s unwavering integration of faith and politics is exactly what our nation needs. Further, his experience is such that he can hit the ground of Capitol Hill running full speed ahead toward the conservative values that are essential to a healthy future.

As a nationally known conservative columnist, Quin has the rapport, experience, and sound judgment necessary to be a productive congressman. Though he is not a career politician, his profound understanding of political, cultural, and religious realms enables him to quickly evaluate the possible implications of every decision. His faith compels him to advocate solutions that are, at their core, redemptive.

The proper intersection of faith and politics is enough to change the course of history. With Quin in Congress, it will.
“You feed them.”

Faint illumination seemed to emphasize those words as I sat in a foreign city thousands of miles away from home, skimming nonchalantly through Mark chapter 6. Images of the poverty I had seen in the weeks prior swirled through my mind as my eyes were drawn again to those three words:

“You feed them.”

As if I was transported into the live scene conveyed in the passage, I echoed the disciples’ confusion:

“‘With what?’ they asked.”

“God, I came here simply to tell people about you. I don’t have the time or the money or the skill to help all these people …” I thought with more intent to lighten my own burden than to seek God’s response.

“You feed them.”

Thus began a long struggle from which I have not yet escaped — the struggle to learn how to effectively and practicably meet the needs of a world lacking so much.

I wrote a brief introduction to this topic last month and received numerous responses about people and organizations who are offering physical, emotional, and economic assistance hand in hand with the opportunity to know the Source of all good things. That encourages me, and I will continue to learn from these. However, the most common problem with this model is the ease in which we can slip into offering physical or spiritual assistance while neglecting the holistic nature of the person and the contexts that perpetuate the problems they face. Most often, I see those offering physical assistance while neglecting the spiritual need therein.

In other words, it’s too easy to over-simplify. Forgive me for going all academic on you, but consider the widely accepted motivational theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

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Diagram from Sean McLeod, 2007

The premise of the theory is that everyone is motivated by need fulfillment. We start at the bottom of the pyramid with the desire to fulfill our physiological needs. As these needs become met, we ascend through the pyramid, focusing our energies on fulfilling the next category of needs.

Though this too is likely an oversimplification of human motivation, it can provide insight into how we can most effectively serve. I myself am guilty of walking into an impoverished community with only a gospel presentation and nothing else. I leave emptyhanded when the message is rejected, and most tragically, the people I came to reach walk away emptyhanded, too.

The point is that we often offer solutions for needs that aren’t ready to be met. A community lacking basic food, water, and shelter provisions will likely not be prepared to accept a solution to their spiritual need because their energy is focused first on survival. It’s not that the gospel has failed, but that its recipients aren’t ready to receive it.

Jesus exemplified this well in John 4. He met the woman at the well, seeking her where she could be found rather than requiring her to find him. As she fulfilled a physiological need for water for both of them, he identified other needs in her life (for example, the need for social acceptance and strong relationships). He then offers her “Living Water,” as a metaphor to the fulfillment that comes only through Christ Himself.

Note: I’m not saying that Maslow was follower of Christ (or even vice versa). But Christ’s behavior in Scripture reflects the tendencies in human nature on which Maslow builds his theory.

Church, Christ asks us to feed them. Not only that, but he asks us to walk the extra mile with them up the pyramid, so to speak,  to join them along their journey to self-actualization (which, in churchianity terms, sounds mysteriously like ‘discipleship’ and ‘sanctification’).

And when we ask, “with what,” remember: with everything He is and all that He gives us. He provides us with everything we need to see His glory made known among the nations. Even more, His Holy Spirit is already working among those to whom He has called us. As we are obedient to “feed them,” He is  faithful to multiply our meager sacrifice.

Posted by: amylamb | July 29, 2013

A Different Way to Change the World

I’m done trying to alleviate poverty.

I’ve spent most of my life in a world where everything is, for the most part, “okay.” But when I went on my first mission trip 11 years ago, my eyes were opened to the reality that the world is bigger than the small suburban one in which I lived. This startling realization was  accompanied by the reality that with a bigger world comes bigger problems.

These problems compelled me — problems induced by poverty, injustice, spiritual disillusionment, and cruelty. Not knowing what else to do with my realization that everything isn’t actually “okay.” I jumped on a plane again and again to catch some semblance of relief in the knowledge that I was doing something to help.

I went to 29 countries. In each, I met people affected by the problems that were forever embedded as thorns within my conscience. I laughed, cried, danced, and worked among the poor, the oppressed, and the sojourners who give their lives to serve them. But still I was unsatisfied.

Sitting back in the comfort of my suburban life, my curiosity turned to cynicism. “The problems are too big,” I thought, “and our efforts are too small. There’s not enough money, manpower, or time to make things well for everyone. It’s just too easy to invest our lives into projects that are easily undone by time.”

Not everything is okay. Not yet, anyway.

We cannot wholeheartedly serve the world by only scratching the surface of the problems it faces. We must go deeper — delving into the minds and hearts of those in the midst of suffering. We must silence the noise of our own entitlement to listen for the faint whispers that lead us to the crux of the issue. I suspect these whispers will lead us to many unexpected variables that could amplify or mitigate our efforts to alleviate suffering. These variables are many and they are powerful: economic infrastructure, the rule of law, cultural characteristics, spiritual disillusionment, and others still unconsidered.

I submit that once our eyes are opened to the true nature of the problems at hand, we will better understand the nature of the solutions they require. Though I am confident that the root of every societal ill is a spiritual problem, we cannot continue seeking to address one without the other.

Poverty, for example, is not the problem. The systems and situations that create poverty, however, are the core of the issue. We can throw millions of dollars of resources at the problem of poverty but if we do not address the economic, legal, and social aspects that create it, then the problem will only recur once the resources are depleted.

That’s why I’m done simply trying to alleviate poverty, and I hope the church will be, too. I hope we go deeper than that. I hope we embrace a different way to change a world — a way that  uses the gifts God has given us  to address the cause rather than the symptoms of the world’s problems, including poverty. These are problems that need holistic, effective solutions that can be developed by people with business acumen, medical training, law enforcement experience, legal and public policy counsel, ministerial gifts, and other skills.

Many churches and organizations are already doing this. In an effort to (put my newly acquired and rather expensive MBA to use and) better understand and develop existing strategies to address both the physical and spiritual needs of the world, I’ll be spending the next few months researching in-depth those who are already doing it and why they’re doing it. I plan to post whatever discoveries I make along the way right here.

Feel free to comment with your own feedback and ideas. I want to know what discoveries you have already made, and I especially want to know how people are developing different ways to change the world.

Posted by: amylamb | July 18, 2013

Christlike Ambassadors in a Post-Christian Culture

Christlike Ambassadors in a Post-Christian Culture

In a follow-up interview to my post titled “We Are His Witnesses,” Bob Crittenden of Faith Radio and I discuss how to be Christ-like ambassadors in a post-Christian culture. Listen here.

Posted by: amylamb | June 27, 2013

“We Are His Witnesses”

In light of the events of the past week, I believe it is (past) time for evangelical Christians to redefine the success of our agenda.

Though we are guilty of many offenses, one of our most critical errors was defining the success of our agenda by our government’s acceptance of it. If our beliefs are legislated throughout the country, then we celebrate as if our work is validated. But when our beliefs are rejected on Capitol Hill, we respond with a startling lack of grace that often negates the progress we have made thus far.

We must realign our definition of success with God’s expectations of His children: to love Him and to love others (Romans 13:8). That is how we fulfill his requirements, on His terms and in His timing. If we are faithful in this, then He is faithful in accomplishing the rest.

We seem to have forgotten that morality and legality are two different things — and the government cannot do our bidding for us. The commandments of Christ are fulfilled by His disciples, and disciple-making is the work of the church — not the government. Though the government can certainly make our jobs easier, we should not respond in anger when in fact, they make it harder.

We must remember that our citizenship is not here, but in Heaven — indeed, this world is not our home. But while we are here, we are commanded to love God with all our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls, and to love people in the same way. If the manner in which we defend our beliefs contradicts God’s method for displaying those beliefs, then we are in sin. Grace is the only remedy.

Church, remember the grace that made you an ambassador of its Giver. Thank God today for the opportunity to believe and act differently than the world around us, and then go find someone to love.

Ultimately, we must remember today, tomorrow, and forever that “we are His witnesses” (Acts 5:32).

—–
“These threats may bring about in the church a much-needed change of mindset.It’s time we recognized we are no longer the ‘moral majority’ and embrace our identity as the ‘missional minority.””

— Trevin Wax in a great article titled, “Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) For The Church.”

Coming Soon: “Revival & Evangelism” by Sammy Tippit with Amy Lamb

I sat down with Bob Crittenden of Faith Radio in Montgomery to discuss an upcoming book I co-authored with Sammy Tippit, titled “Revival & Evangelism: A Study Guide”. Listen to the interview here, and watch this site for updates about the upcoming release date.

Posted by: amylamb | April 19, 2013

Come, Lord Jesus

Nothing captures the collective attention of the world like tragedy.
 
Though “these are the days that try men’s souls,” these days are not new to us … for the souls of men have been tried each day since we first fell victim to sin’s curse. 
 
These are the days in which the common voice of humanity rises over the aftermath as if to say to the victims, “we are with you.” These are the days when we all set aside the hustle of our daily lives to lament over the reminder that “all manner of thing” is not yet well. These are the days when we remember that truly, there is far more to unite us as Americans than there is to divide us.
 
Though some tragedies are the result of deliberately evil intentions, others are simply horrible accidents. These are reminders that each day is beyond our control and that this world is not our home.
 
Even more sobering is the reality that the same potential for evil that resides in the perpetrators of every evil tragedy resides in us as well.
 
. . . And yet, He came.
 
Christ came to dwell among the tragic, the ignorant, the victimized, the forgotten, and even the evil.
He came to make all things new — and he came to start with us.
 
Yes, these are the days that try men’s souls. But the souls of men have still endured, though only through the grace of God who is present even in evil’s wake. His presence is enough for us. And when nothing else can be said or done, His presence, still, is enough.
 
“Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
 

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