Categories
Brokenness Perspective Sorrow Tears

Unchecked

Trails of them

Tears run

Flowing unchecked down well-worn furrows

Staining the strongest

Bringing lower the lowest

Mothers, daughters, fathers and sons

Great rivers of sorrow

No escape from the darkness

Alone in the suffering

Does anyone see?

Does anyone care?

Hands folded, knees bowed low

Oh God rescue us, rescue us…

An unexpected hand, an embrace

A cup of water, a plate of food

No longer alone

Sorrows gently wiped way

You saw us and you cared

You came

Today, God made us laugh.

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But what about tomorrow?

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The voices of thousands remain unheard as this world spins in angst and anger. This piece came to me today as I began to prepare for a food distribution to 200 families of widows, elderly and vulnerable in Burundi. Through all the noise that is being fed to us, take a moment to look around where you are to listen for those whose tears flow unchecked along well-worn furrows.

Categories
Brokenness Despair Fasting Grief Poetry

The Keeper

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History was written on His face – not old – but ancient,

The lines told a tale older than time,

He was the Keeper.

 

Entering the room, lined with shelves that were stacked with volumes of books,

His calloused and beautiful hands gently caressed the bindings of those stories,

Eyes passing gently over each one, He knew them in detail.

He then stopped and I heard Him say, “Now, it’s time for you.”

Reaching a hand into a pocket on the front of His coat right next to His heart

He took out a book and in it

Was the story of me.

 

Pulling out a chair, He sat down

And rested this poorly written piece on a table and then opened to chapter one.

His attention was fixed on the pages as He started to turn

The book was worn and old, pages stained and sad.

“Who will read such a sad tale?” I called from the back of the room

“No one has wanted it, no one has cared.”

 

“I’m reading,” said the Keeper, “Come, let’s read together,

Take time to see what your book says.”

I sat with Him and we flipped through the pages one by one,

I felt ashamed He would read the words that were written there.

His tears began to flow freely and fell on the pages as we read –

But a smile crossed His face each time

My name was written there.

 

The print was faded, the letters had smeared

But He understood each word.

Lifting His head, His tears mingling with His smile,

The same beautiful hand that had touched

Those wonderfully written books on the shelf

Reached to wipe from my face

Tears from the hurts of lost time.

 

As the pages came to an end, there was no happy ending

No fairy tale magic or magic rescue,

There was only sadness and loss.

I dared to turn toward Him and asked,

“Why take all this time for me?

There’s no way to rewrite history!”

 

Eyes that read far deeper than times past

Reached into the darkness of my story and saw beyond my pain,

He drew me to His words as He spoke and said,

“But you are wrong dear one,” His voice as gentle as the morning sun,

“I am the Keeper and I’ve kept something for you.”

 

He then opened a drawer in his table and pulled from there

A new pen and inkwell –

And began again at chapter one.

On those pages of my book He wrote words fresh and new

The volume came to life on pages written in my heart.

 

Dipping His pen in red ink each time He wrote a phrase

The blood of the Keeper’s Son would never fade!

And as He wrote, He said “Without doubt,

I am the Author and I’m changing your story

I have a new plot in mind.

Won’t you stay here with Me a while?”

 

The stained pages blew away with one stroke of the pen

And when He was done I said,

“How wonderful! Will my story be together

With all those marvelous books on Your shelf?”

 

“No, My child,” said the Keeper, “This story is special – I will keep it with Me.”

And He returned the book to the front pocket in His coat

Close to His heart and said,

“Yours is My favorite to read,

Won’t you let it stay with Me?”

 

In the volumes of Your book, it is written of me.

 

Psalm 40:7,8

Hebrews 10:5-7

 

6 February 2013

 

 

 

 

Categories
Brokenness Change Despair Family Ministry Missions

Deeply Personal

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This past Saturday evening, as I entered our church tent for prayer there was a young girl, maybe 15 or 16 years old, sitting alone among the chairs. She sat alone quietly, head down trying to keep her eyes from connecting with anyone. As is the custom here in Malawi (and many parts of Africa), I walked around greeting those who were there with a handshake and smile saying, “Mwaswera bwanji?” (Translated “How are you this afternoon?”) This young girl barely had the courage to look at me as she extended her small hand to mine. I looked at her and realized she had severe burn scars across her face and was obviously developmentally disabled. Her clothes were old and unwashed but her eyes open and her smile, ever so slight, broke my heart into pieces. I watched her kneel and pray with all her heart and later, I watched her leave.

The next morning, when I arrived early to teach a class, she entered quietly, a bit late, as she’s not one of my students, but I didn’t say anything as she gingerly took the same seat she had at prayer the day before with her eyes downcast. Her clothes were the same ones she had worn on Saturday and her hands were wound tightly together. I struggled to pull my eyes away from her and teach the students in the class.

I saw her – I knew her story most likely went something like countless ones I had heard before. She had probably been burned in a senseless accident or as punishment or out of plain cruelty. She had such a look of shame in her eyes I knew that it was likely she was or was being abused in some way wherever she was living – but where could someone like her go? Before I knew it, she slipped away after service and I made a mental note to find out more about her so we could find a way to help her.

Later that morning, as service ended and I was saying goodbye to some ladies, I picked up a painfully small baby boy from his young mother’s arms. His smile was contagious and I cuddled him; he wasn’t at all put off by my obvious foreigner status, being “Muzungu” (a white person). Many children in the poorer areas, where many of our church members come from, aren’t accustomed to interacting with a “Muzungu” so when this baby smiled I had to cuddle him. I asked how old he was and was told he was 5 months old; holding him I knew he was underweight. He was too small, too hungry; we have to find a way to get some nourishment to help him.

I saw him and his mother (she’s only 16 years old); I already knew that the “husband” had disallowed his new wife to attend a weekend encounter retreat with us. He told her if she went to the retreat, he would leave her so she stayed home. I know the likely outcome, without an intervention by God, will be heartache when at some point in time he beats her and leaves her for another woman.

When we finally returned home after a long weekend and I had a moment, I stepped out for a prayer walk. The sun was bright and a cool breeze was blowing and I thought it was a perfect afternoon to walk and pray. My mind wasn’t far from the young girl and her baby and as I prayed, I came upon another young mother with a baby on her back. She was standing on a corner, looking as if she was getting off a bus that usually passes by there; she had a very large bundle of sugarcane that she was lifting to her head. She was trembling as she lifted the bundle and no one passing by helped her so I did my best to help steady her load and tie a blanket around her to secure the baby. Of course I couldn’t tie the blanket as well as she could but she gave me a bit of instruction. I stumbled but finally got it, apologizing to her in Chichewa (the local language) that I wasn’t much help and she said, “Osadandaula.” Translated, “Don’t worry.” Knowing the language gives me immediate entrance but it also allows me to hear what people are saying and I heard the comments and snickers of the passers-by as the “Muzungu” helped this lady. It was obvious the “Muzungu” wasn’t at all able to tie the blanket well. I apologized again to her, hoping I hadn’t embarrassed her too much, as I handed her an umbrella she had been carrying and her sizeable purse. Again, her voice quietly said, “Osadandaula” and we both went our way.

I saw her and her baby and wondered about her story – I knew hers was like millions of other women on the continent. She likely had a small business or went to her field to cut sugarcane to sell. No one went with her to help her so she put her baby on her back and went to get her sugar cane alone. It may be she faced a beating if she didn’t go and my heart broke for her as I continued to walk and pray.

In this world of great pain and need, what can be done to bring meaningful change? On the African continent alone, there are hundreds of millions of stories like these; it feels like an impossible situation. I am assaulted daily with feelings of despair when I see hungry children, abused women, and hopelessness in the eyes of the vulnerable.

Are we exempt from doing anything because whatever we do won’t be enough to touch vast swaths of the population?

I’m drawn to think of my daughter who was premature and abandoned as an infant. She was left in a small hospital and then rescued by a local organization working with children in crisis. When we saw her, she was 7 lbs. and 3 months old, we fell in love with her and she came home. 9 years later, I can’t imagine life without our “bonus” baby who came 15 years after our last biological child was born.

Our daughter, just a little number among the 1,000,000+ orphans in Malawi (click here for more information), had been left in a strange house among many other children in the same situation: alone in this world. It may not appear that rescuing her made much of an impact on the population of orphans in the nation – but it made a difference to her (and us). Her life has been radically changed and she has hope for a future – and our lives are immeasurably richer. You can see that this is deeply personal to me.

I wonder if everyone, everywhere opened their eyes and really saw those around them and did the little bit that they could, what would the impact be? Perhaps it’s impossible to change the whole world and solve every problem, but for those few whose lives are touched – it would be worth every effort.

Today, I’m looking for someone whose life I can touch; no matter how small it may be – it’s time for a change.

James 1:26,27 MSG “Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.”

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Categories
Brokenness Poetry

Born From Brokenness

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Shattered dreams

Where once was hope

Scattered around me

Broken before its time

Sharp and painful edges

Reminders of brokenness

How I am undone.

———-

Picking up the shards

Examining what’s left

Of lost dreams

It just wasn’t to be

In the brokenness

The future lost to me.

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Nothing of use is left

What seems lost time will see

Seeds planted in times past

Though burned by fire

Through the ashes

Grow the greatest of trees.

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From what remains

A beautiful work of art

Made by broken Hands

So that we would be whole

A miracle I now see

Born from brokenness.

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