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When You’re Done with Pundits, Soul Wrestling & Looking at the Sky: {25 Things I learned from staying with Katie Davis}

A Holy Experience

So there was this girl named Katie and she laughed loud and like an angel when someone said she was like Mother Teresa.

Threw back her head and laughed loud into the sky.

It’s strange how this can move in you, a laughter like this , and how hands can embody love.

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Katie was 18 when she flew to Uganda.

She took Jesus at His Word: Real life is lived on your knees. I was a whole lot older than that when I first started to read over at Kisses from Katie, years ago now. I am still finding my knees and what it means to really live.

How in the world do you keep on living everyday in middle North America when you’re mildly wild to go live something as radical like Katie?

How many of the Esther Generation hear Jesus asking us now: “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Act 1:11) We’re hungry to do more than stand here looking at the sky – but tell us what? Where? How?

How many women on this spinning globe read Katie and lay in bed at night desperately wrestling and writhing with their own life, hearts dizzy and aching… I was one of them. These are not trite ponderings. You only pass by this way once.

Your life is passing like a hand waving from the back of a train and every choice determines whether you are on the right track. It all matters. How do you keep your nails filed and you eyebrows plucked when your secret hope is to have dirt under your fingernails and the strings of your heart plucked into a symphony that might make stars move?

Go ahead, give us that. We want that. We are the generations that are done living the comforts of this world and we’re ready to live uncomfortable because we’re ready for the comfort of God.

“Jesus wrecked my life.“ That’s what Katie said. ”For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car.”

Having everything doesn’t mean you have the right track.

“Slowly but surely I began to realize the truth,” Katie gives words to all generations: “I had loved and admired and worshiped Jesus without doing what He said … I wanted to actually do what Jesus said to do.”

That.

The Esther Generation, the North American Church, we’re hungry for uncomfortable and that’s where we are at:

We are done with loving Jesus – without doing what He says. We know that loving Jesus means doing what He says.

But what in the world does that really look like? How? Where? And our husbands are here.

Katie graduated highschool – and then got on a plane for Uganda. Serving at a Ugandan orphanage was to be short-term. One year – and then back home to “normal” and the shimmer of the American dream.

But Katie watched rag-poor parents hand over their children to the orphanage so they’d get three meals a day and education. She was witnessing the ripping apart of families. She waited on God. She didn’t wait for someone else to do something. She saw a need and said to God, “Here I am – Use me.”

By His grace alone and out of her offered weakness – she ended up pioneering a sponsorship program, including meals and school fees, to keep kids in families — over 600 of them. She started a school feeding program for a few thousand more. When a storm toppled a house on to a 9-year-old down the street, and Katie discovered that her, and her 7 year old and 5 year old sisters were all living alone, orphaned, and fending for themselves, she said they could sleep at her house until God made it clear what came next.

What came next is that they called her Mommy.

We want clarity; God wants us to come closer. Life is always clear when you press closer and see it through the sheer love of God.

That’s what Katie did. And that’s how it began – one surrendered girl right out of high school finding herself mothering 13 little girls.

When I find out Compassion Canada has invited our oldest girl and I to Uganda to meet our sponsored child, Katie emails, “Come!” Hope and I show up on her doorstep late on a Thursday afternoon. Hope stands there smiling shyly at 13 smiles. Katie and I fall into each other arms and we believe in miracles.

In five minutes, I am on Katie’s couch and her little Patricia has dragged up a pile of books and I am sitting criss-cross applesauce and reading The Ox-Cart Man aloud in Uganda with this little girl nestled on my lap, her head of braids tucked under my chin. I think my heart might explode.

Love is complicated and the simplest thing in the world. And that is all there is.

Katie stirs beans in a massive pot on the stove and one of the girls pulls up a chair and mashes a mountain of potatoes and I read of The Ox-Cart Man selling his cart at Plymouth market and there’s a map of the world on the wall over Katie’s table and that’s what I want to do –

We could write it on a million kitchen chalkboards: You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things with His Great love.

You are changing the world – when you are changing one person’s world.

You aren’t missing your best life – when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.

Katie and I stay up ate into the night talking, two mothers, and I feel like I am breathing anwers. Her daughters sing loud. “The Sound of Music has nothing on us,” Katie grins and I laugh louder. We tell each other how each other’s book has changed each of our lives and how God is in the business of miracles, of using obedient yeses from the weak and unlikely to do the impossible, and how heat like this does crazy things to our hair.

Mother of a half-dozen, I watch 13 girls with their 24-year-old mother for 3 days. Grace reigns and peace pervades. You mother as well as you know your Father. I look at Katie and all I can think: She mothers like she’s memorized the face of her Father. It is a holy witnessing.

Katie pours over Scripture at the close every meal. She reads His Word like something’s burning hot in her chest. Her girls never leave the table without smiling toward her, a chorus: “Thanks Mom… for food.” For food. Not this particular food, not this particular meal – but for just. for. food. at. all. I never leave the table without blinking it back.

A man with a flesh eating virus limps to the door. Katie opens the door wide, grabs him a chair, dresses his wound. I watch this and can feel the shifting in me. We go out to the slums, to where Amazima, Katie’s ministry, feeds hundreds of kids. We sing Gospel songs till I think we might lift the roof. I swing with kids and wonder how to touch the sky. How to touch the sky. I watch Amazima give each child a bag of rice before they leave for home, a stream of gratitude on red roads – because one young woman said yes. That one young woman turns to me on the way home and I remember how she smiled it: “The answer to everything is relationship.” And I nod and feel it again and relationship with Him is always the answer and then how we live that out in relationship and this is what I know: Relationship is reality.

Her daughters braid Hope’s hair, this plaiting and lacing and how the strands give way and wrap round each other and are strong in the wrapping around each other. Hope’s heart-tied. She can’t stop smiling. A farm girl from Canada giggles too late into the night with sisters from Uganda and Katie and I whisper, “Shhhhh.”

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One of Katie’s daughters has a birthday.

Katie and I stand together in the kitchen and make up 6 pans of lasagne and it’s like I can the feel the sky descending. She’ll serve 22 tonight. We’ll have to squeeze on the benches. She bakes a cake and lights candles. And I feel the lighting.

Living radical isn’t about where you live — it’s about how you love.

It’s about realizing– Love doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place – wherever you are, right where you are, dirt road Africa or side street America.

Because it isn’t where we love. It’s how we love. It’s who we love. The reward of loving is in the loving; loving is itself the great outcome of loving. The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing. The value of loving is in the value of being like Christ.

People are starved for Christ everywhere; there are poor too down our streets and down our halls and downs our pews. Radical begins finding them and radically loving them.

I look at Katie Davis and she is this: She is one mother. She is us. She is the Esther Generation. She is one mother who lives the welcome of the Gospel. You can look into the eyes of her children and see resurrection. You can see how her door is an open welcome to the wounded, her couch an open welcome for the drunk, her garage an open welcome to the homeless, her bed an open welcome to the sick, her table an open welcome to anyone – her smile an open welcome to every one of her children, every stranger, every guest.

Because her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, said, “I was a stanger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).

We are done looking into the sky – we are ready to fling open every door in our lives, we are ready to tear down every gate. We are the Esthers inside the gate — and the hurting and the poor, the oppressed and the ignored – is Christ on the other side of the gate. Christ is saying: “I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. I was the stranger on the other side of the gate — and you risked everything inside the gate for the One outside the gate — Me.

It’s not nameless masses of the deserving poor on the other side of the gate; It’s Christ. Every single stranger, every single disadvantaged, is Christ and if you love Himyou have got make your life about tearing down the gates.

Every face is the guise of Christ.

I look at Katie. Radical isn’t as much about where you move – but about looking into the face of Jesus – and letting Him move you where you are. He may move you to Africa – or across the street. But if the love of Christ moves you – it will move you out into the world. He will move you to tear down gates.

Pundits can banter about one southern cook and the nature of racism in this continent, about the nature of marriage and truth and grace and orientation and the Church, and our screens can explode with opinions and rebuttals and politics.

But our answers to all the raging questions of the day won’t be found in what we write: it will be found in how we open our doors.

Our actual theology is best expressed in our actual hospitality.

And I don’t mean that hospitality is one quaint ministry for those good in the kitchen and keeping their house picked up. Hospitality isn’t for the good housekeepers — it’s the grid of life for anyone keeping company with Christ. Hospitality is meant to shape our churches and politics, our work and our schools, our homes and our faith and our schedules and our meals and our lives.

Hospitality is Life with no Gates.

Hospitality means if there is room in the heart —

there is always room in the house.

And if we’ve really welcomed Christ into our lives – it means our lives are evidence that we’ve welcomed the strangers and the neglected and the outcasts.

The Esther Generation lives it and the North American church is hungry for something as authentic and organic as hospitality: Don’t start with a program. Start with a plate.

My girl and I live 3 days with Katie and we are lit:

The radical practice of hospitality begins with each child, each knock, each phone call: Every interruption of the day is a manifestation of Christ.

There are no interruptions in a day.

There are only manifestations of Christ.

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One of Katie’s daughters had whispered it:

“Mommy, if Jesus comes to live inside my heart, will I explode?

And Katie had said —“No!” and then —

Yes, if Jesus comes to live in your heart, you will explode… That is exactly what we should do if Jesus comes to live inside our hearts.

We will explode with love, with compassion, with hurt for those who are hurting, and with joy for those who rejoice. We will explode with a desire to be more, to be better, to be close to the One who made us.”

And Africa undoes me and I’m exploded and broken wide open with the Esther Generation

broken and exploded by Christ —

a thousand bits of His Love bringing down the sky and tearing down gates.

 

 

 

Related:
How to Be Beautiful and Have a Beautiful Home and Life
The Research that Proves You Can Change the World
A Letter to the North American Church: Because it is Time
Why You Are Where You Are: For Such a Time as Now
An Internet Love Story: How to Live Free

Visit Katie Davis’ Blog: Kisses from Katie
Check out the beautiful necklaces and bracelets that Katie’s ministry offers by employing Ugandan women: wear real beauty.
Katie’s unforgettable, NYT bestseller: Kisses from Katie

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