Speaking in front of hundreds of people is a terrifying task – at least for me – but now I can say that I am a better person for having done so.
The proposition to speak at my church at tonight’s gathering (Feb. 17th) came early in the morning on last Thursday from my pastor, Harvey (yes, the same dude on my link below…). He had warned me that he would make me share my story at Living Stones (a peculiar name for a church, eh?), but I expected a little more heads-up before the actual event. Three days… that’s not enough time for me to have a heart attack, recover, and be able to speak by Sunday night!
Nevertheless, I agreed to do it. Not because I am fan of being the center of attention. BELIEVE YOU ME… I would have been happy stacking chairs, putting away Bibles, and running Powerpoint slides behind the scenes unbeknownst to most of Living Stoners until I had to part paths with these crazy kids. Yet I began to hear these voices in my head – what was it that you wrote in your personal statement for law school again? I had to do it.
For those who are interested on how I went about making a fool of myself (just kidding… it wasn’t that bad), here is a rough transcript of what I said tonight. I’m not sure if it will make it onto the Podcast or not; if it does, I’ll link my 15 minutes of fame here. 🙂
Hi. As Harvey said, my name is [Reasonable Woman], and I am a deacon here at Living Stones. And I’m extremely nervous right now… but I’ll try to go on. You know, a few years ago, I had an opportunity to speak in front of about 5000 people. That was pretty intense. But let me tell you: talking in front of you people is at least 100 times scarier. Which is a bad news since I want to make a living being a lawyer which involves a lot of public speaking. But it hasn’t always been so clear what I was supposed to do with my life.
This time last year, I was struggling to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do after I graduated for the second time. I finished my bachelor’s back in 2006, and the thought of real-world scared me – so much so that I signed up for a master’s program to buy more time to figure out “God’s will” for my life. I wanted a clear idea of what I was supposed to do rather than just jumping into whatever came my way, so I was praying constantly about it – almost to the point of nagging Him. And He finally answered me as I was sitting in a conference session for a Christian leadership summit last summer.
During one of the days at this conference, they showed a three-minute video of a typical night for a little girl, living on the streets in Kalkota, India. The camera was silently observing this girl across the street as she laid down her little folded up blanket that she has been carrying around all day in her arms. She laid her head down to sleep in the middle of the street, and before the video faded away you could see a man walking right by her as if there is nothing unusual about the whole situation. It was business as usual. Though this alone was heart-wrenching and shocking, what struck me most was the guy who made this short film. He isn’t a tree-hugging, save the humanity, head-in-the-cloud activist. He has a day job – of making films like Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually, and Mr. Bean. There is one quote from the interview they did with him at this conference that changed my whole perspective: “There is only one thing I am good at and that is to write comedy and to work with comedians, but I will do it ruthlessly to rectify the social injustice that is happening around the world.” Pretty profound – from a guy who is not even a Christian. This agnostic man was doing more to obey the commands of the Bible more than any of us who call ourselves Christian.
Did you know the word “poor” appears 181 times in the Bible? God wanted His people to know clearly how we are to treat the poor. I was only given 10 minutes to talk so we can’t exactly cover 181 verses, but here are my Top 3 Poor Verses:
3) And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:22)
It seems like He really got down to the nitty gritty details, and there are tons of other verses that look much like this throughout Exodus and Leviticus. I’m sure there are not very many farmers here, so I guess we’re all safe on this one, right? But how many of us live from paycheck to paycheck, spending down to the every last penny on ourselves? How often do you ever give a dollar to a homeless man? This isn’t about money – it’s about our heart and attitude toward the poor.
2) Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. (Proverbs 28:27)
How many of us, watching the TV late at night, changed the channel when those commercials came on? You know what I’m talking about. Kids in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America… $30 a month is all they need. Nearly 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, and approximately three billion people – that’s half the world – live on less than two dollars a day. Gives a whole new perspective to “poor, starving college student,” doesn’t it? The five dollars we spend on beer at the Little Wal can feed a child for a week. But we turn our eyes away from them.
Now, I’m not trying to condemn anyone here. I would be condemning myself just as much if that were so. I am sharing with you the journey that He put me on over the past year to help me see a dire need around the world and what I am to do about it.
Last but never least… the next verse has a special place in my heart. Against some reasonable advice of my concerned friends and mentors, I made use of this verse in my personal statement for my law school application. I couldn’t convince myself to abandon the very words that have inspired me to become a lawyer solely because of the fear of a reaction from an admissions committee member who is not a Christian.
1) Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
The question begs to be asked: what more fitting profession is out there to defend the rights of the destitute than a lawyer? Now, you don’t have to be a lawyer to seek justice and defend the rights of the poor, but being a lawyer will have its advantages in following this command. And I believe I have been called to such path.
To be honest, I am not sure what exactly God wants me to do with a law degree yet. He hasn’t emailed me the detailed itinerary. I’m still waiting on that. But I can’t wait around to heed this command.
That opening of the mouth… it was a scary challenge for me. I believe what I am doing right now, speaking to all y’all, is part of the opening of my mouth for the rights of poor and needy. But one mouth isn’t enough to carry the message throughout the world. We have all been called as servants of God, to carry out His will. To do what pleases Him. So what does the Lord delight in?
We have been reading through a Psalm each week to help us reflect on the ancient truths before going into musical worship. And I think it’s not by accident or coincidence that Psalm 146 has been heavy on my heart lately. So let me read this to you.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The God we serve delights in those who are righteous and those who seek justice. It is my prayer that the community of Living Stones become more like our Lord. That we be known as the people who lift up those who are bowed down, who uphold the widow and the fatherless.