Categories
Devotion Light Love

The Light of Love

I’m delighted once again to share a devotional with you from Mary Johnson, may it fill your day with light!

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Walk in the light of His love.  What is your tone, what does it sound like? Is it covered in the light of Jesus’ love? He provides that light for us.  You can say something to someone and your very tone can speak volumes. I believe Jesus spoke with authority, but it was laced with the light of His love.

John 8:12b “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

It gives you joy when you can speak truth to someone and they receive it, because they can feel where the love is coming from.  There are times when you can be misunderstood in what you are trying to convey. However, we in return have to be willing to examine ourselves to make sure we spend time with Jesus, so that the light of His love will shine through us to others. This will reflect in what we say and how we say it.

Proverbs 15:23 TPT “Everyone enjoys giving great advice. But how delightful it is to say the right thing at the right time!”

Mary Johnson

 

Categories
Choices Faith Love

The Knock at the Door

A dear friend of mine, Mary Johnson, brings us a word for the moment. Which moment? Every one that we live. Enjoy.

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I remember when I was a young girl, I never wanted to go outside to play.  My mom and I were reminiscing about it the other day.  She asked me, “Do you remember what you did when you went out doors to play?” I said, “I probably sat down.”  She said, “Yes, but do you remember where you went?”  I told her that I did not remember.  She said that I went outside and sat on the steps right at the front door.

When you think about the words “knock at the door,” Jesus said in Revelation 3:20 “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” When we open the door to Jesus, fear has to leave, intimidation has to go. Why? Because love has entered in. 1 John 4:18 states,  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”

We can boldly step out in faith and as we take a step, Jesus takes each step with us. I opened the door to Jesus and He stepped in. I found myself willing to move from the front steps and into the games the other children were playing one step, at a time. Fear had to move away and was no longer able to keep me on the step at the front door.

Take the step of faith with Jesus, He promised to never leave or forsake us.  All we have to do is open the door of our heart when he knocks. He is knocking. Will you let Him in?

Mary Johnson

 

 

Categories
Death Family Goodbye Grief Loss Love Malaria Missions

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Last week started out as any normal week but as the days unfolded, it turned into an abnormally normal one. Let me try to unravel the tangled mess that we walked through and have found, unfortunately, to be all-too-common on this side of the planet.

After an amazing weekend at church, I received word early on Tuesday morning from one of our church members, Joseline, that her 5-year-old niece, Grace, was very sick with malaria. She had been transferred from a local clinic to a government hospital on Monday and had taken a turn for the worse. I had planned to be out around lunchtime and said I’d pass by around 1 p.m. to pray for Grace. She immediately replied, “Come now.”

Gripped by the urgency of the moment, I jumped into the car with Selenie, one of our leaders and a dear friend, who lives nearby our house and headed for the hospital. Joseline met us outside with worry written all over her face; she briefed us on how the child had suddenly taken a turn for the worse overnight and doctors were scrambling to treat her. More tests were needed, we all gave some money to pay quickly as nothing is done here without up-front payment, and Joseline ran off to pay for the ordered exams.

By this time, we were standing outside the intensive care unit where Grace was but had not yet been allowed to enter. Grace’s mother came out momentarily and was able to escort us to the bedside of her little daughter. An older relative, who I assumed was her grandmother, was stroking her head as she was convulsing and praying desperate prayers. Selenie and I, unprepared to see what was happening before us, laid our hands on Grace’s flailing arms and legs and began to pray. Little can be said in such a moment of anguish so we cried out to Jesus. A few moments later, I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye and knew the doctors wanted to tend to her (I assumed the ordered tests had been paid for and they were prepared to perform the tests). We concluded our prayers and exited the room, the heavy metal door locking loudly behind us.

We did our best to enourage Grace’s father and other family members we found outside, but our words felt so very inadequate. Grace’s father had married her mother after his first wife died and Grace was their first child together. His facial expression belied his worry and I had no words; I could only be present.

After some time, Selenie and I made our way home, praying for the best. What we had hoped and prayed for, a miracle healing, did not take place and less than two hours later, Joseline’s message came, “The child has died.”

I had no words.

I had alerted women in the church to pray when news first came of Grace, I had hoped not to have to bring them the news of her death. With a heavy heart, I forwarded the message to the ladies and what came next was what I find to be one of the greatest qualities of the people in this part of the world: their ability to comfort grieving families by simply being present.

By Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Grace’s death, the family made arrangements to transport Grace’s remains to a local morgue as there aren’t funeral services here to make arrangements for families. I am not sure why she wasn’t placed into the morgue at the hospital where she had been treated; I suspect it was full. By Tuesday evening, a “kilio” (literally translated, “a crying”), a time of mourning with the family, was being held at the family’s home on the outskirts of town. Since Grace came from a believing family, the feeling at the kilio was full of hope, comfort, and love. Family, friends and church members filled the house for the three days leading up to the funeral.

At a kilio one doesn’t have to do anything; you go, sit, pray, offer whatever words you may have to offer but the main point of the kilio is to be present. Together with Selenie and another lady from church, we went and spent time with the family for a few hours. The women sat apart from the men on the floor in the house; ladies came in, greeted one another, prayed, sometimes even slept, and sat with Grace’s mother. The men sat outside under a makeshift tent in chairs doing the same for the father. The understanding of the pain felt by loved ones in the death of family members runs deep here; everyone unfortunately has felt the sting associated with death many times. Here, it is understood that to be present is the greatest gift that one can give.

Friday morning arrived and according to custom, we met the family and others at the morgue and waited for the body to be released. Those who wanted, were allowed to view the body, called “jicho la mwisho” (literally translated, “the last eye”), and when all paperwork was complete, the funeral procession made its way to the graveyard about 30 minutes away by car.

Under the blazing sun, we filed to the graveside where a short but very poignant ceremony began. All did their best to remain brave, however, when the time came to read Grace’s short biography, the tears flowed. She had finised “ecole maternelle” (kindergarten) and was preparing to enter first grade, how short her life was and the unspoken question “why” settled in our minds but all of us determined to release that unanswerable question to an all-knowing God. Parents, family and friends took turns leaving flowers at the grave and finally, it was time to say goodbye – for now. We know that one day those graves will open when the sky lights up (1 Thess. 4:16) and all tears will finally be wiped away (Isa. 25:8).

A short ceremony was held at another venue after leaving the graveside by the family to thank all well-wishers and those who had helped the family at their darkest moment.  As custom has it, the kilio for young children doesn’t extend beyond the burial. It was formally lifted at this short ceremony, but it was easy to see that for Grace’s parents, the kilio was ongoing.

Malaria kills 1,200 children daily, about 50 per hour, around the world. 90% of those deaths occur in Africa. Earlier this year, we handed out 200 mosquito nets in a rural area outside of Bujumbura city and I wonder how we can do more, help more and prevent more deaths. Grace, whose story we lived last week, is just one of 1,000s. Since she died, approximately 8,400 others just like her have succumbed to the disease. Pray with us and for us so that we can reach more families in the coming year with mosquito nets and malaria prevention classes, it is the least we can do.

And when we have done what we can, while there may not be words, we will simply be present.

 

Categories
Anniversary Faith Forgiveness Love Marriage Missions

A Bit of Crazy

Every July I turn into a hopeless romantic and this year a bit more so as we are celebrating 35 years of marriage on the 21st of July. I would say that’s a bit of a milestone, it might even be a date-night worthy event. The problem is our choice of places to go for a date night here are limited so we will likely celebrate later on this year when we travel.

As missionaries, we are obliged to travel from time to time to report to supporting churches and individuals as well as hopefully meet new contacts. It’s during times like these that we fit in those much-needed moments to devote to one another and family that we don’t have opportunity to see unless we are traveling. I realize most of the popular books on marriage and family decry our life’s rhythm – but it is what we have learned to live with and work around and somehow God has given us grace and we have lasted 35 years.

When I look back on our early history, I’m sure that we weren’t a likely couple. In fact, we were a pretty unlikely couple and our relationship must have initially surprised many. The thing that brought us, and has kept us, together was simply our desire to make it for the long haul and be in the will of God at the same time. We’ve held on when we didn’t feel like holding on, we’ve forgiven one another, we’ve raised a family together, we’ve seen more in our lifetime together than I ever thought possible. As the children are now almost all grown (one 11 year old remains at home), we find ourselves closer to one another than in our early years. Our combined and common history has created a bond that is difficult to explain and can only really be understood by others who have walked their own journies of commitment in marriage.

This weekend we are hosting a special marriage ceremony for couples in our church in Bujumubura who have not been able, for one reason or another, to be married. Most of the time, these reasons have more to do with finance than anything – having the ability to host a big party has pressured many couples to forego a marriage ceremony. While we agree weddings should be a reason for celebrating, weddings are only a one-day event and their cost shouldn’t prevent couples from living in God’s order. Marriage is supposed to last for a lifetime, not just a day. After counseling and working with these couples, we decided to host a simple but beautiful ceremony at the church for these dear people who only want to get their lives and families in order. As it turns out, the church has shown up and individuals have donated time, money, and decorations for the celebration set to take place tomorrow afternoon. The excitement is brewing and my heart is fluttering for them all – what a great day lies ahead of us!

While the decor is going to be simple, it reminds me of our day so many years ago and the high hopes we had when we stood at the altar. My mother insisted on a friend of hers playing the traditional wedding march and it was almost painful walking the aisle to the tune – it was so badly done. Looking back, I’m happy I let my mom have her way. Letting mom have her way that day was one of my first lessons in learning what was and wasn’t important. The walk up the aisle had nothing to do with the music – it had everything to do with the person waiting for me at the end who was about to commit to living with all of the craziness I was about to unload on him! That my mother had joy that day, in that moment when the keys didn’t sound totally right, was more important than having it done my way.

My way and his way have given way to what has become our way. We have developed our own way of living and serving and loving one another and it has taken a lifetime to get to this point. I suppose the lesson learned from the years behind us for those looking ahead, for those who have a lifetime yet to live, is to chase the dream of love in your marriage year after year. There comes a point in the gift of love that God gives us in our marriages that is worth the wait, that is worth the fight, that is worth every bit of crazy.

I’m so glad we hung on.

Happy anniversary month Jamie, I love you. Let’s chase the dream for another 35 years and beyond.

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I couldn’t believe that I found this song online! It was sung at our wedding on July 21, 1984. #feelingnostalgic #the80s 

Categories
Correction Family Love Parenting Perspective

How Are You Sleeping?

There are some things we can’t avoid.

As parents there’s no way out of nightly feeding, potty training, skinned knees, and many many tears. Just like we can’t get out of the hard things, there are also positive moments with our children that fill our hearts: the first word, the first step, the first laugh, graduation, marriage, and perhaps the best of all being GRANDCHILDREN.

I find it curious the amount of energy we put into lessening the blows of the negatives we face when raising our families. Theories abound on how to get our babies to sleep all night; the inevitable question, “How are you sleeping?” is bound to arise at some point. Of course no one is sleeping those first weeks, sometimes months, and for some children even longer as they resist every technique that promises parents several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Two of my four children fell into the category of “resistant sleepers” and the dark circles under my eyes still pay tribute to many midnight hours of rocking, praying, pleading, and halfway dozing in my chair with my baby in my arms. I’m sure millions of dollars in revenue have been earned by those writing the popular “how to” books for sleep training our children. Some work and some don’t; it all depends on the child.

The truth of the matter is that a child’s personality cannot be contained – what works for one won’t always work for another. Parenting is the one job I’ve had in my lifetime that has taught me, brutally at times, how to read situations from different angles, how to empathize, sympathize, and most importantly how to love in the middle of misunderstanding. While learning this I have had to, at the same time, maintain a standard for our children of what is important to us as parents. Truly parenting, not just having children, has been the challenge and joy of my lifetime.

I imagine, as God’s child, I have been a challenge to raise. I have resisted many of His prompts, schedules, and standards. He has sympathized, empathized, and loved me in the middle of the midnight hours and my loudest of tantrums. Never once has He compromised His stance, but in His discipline I never found rejection. On the contrary, I found a Father Who was true to everything He stood for and faithful to love in the middle of my refusing to settle down and trust Him.

I’ve heard it said that children are looking for boundaries, for safety, and will test those boundaries (albeit unconsciously perhaps) to see how much they are loved. While human parents will fail, I have failed miserably from time to time as a parent, God cannot. Human parents may give up on their children for one reason or another – God returns to us time again refusing to give up on any of us.

Could there be a better example of parenting? I don’t think so.

I used to think that my parenting career would retire at some point; that my children would no longer be as connected as they grew up and moved on into their own lives. This is true to a certain extent, our children need to form their own families without our overbearing interference. However, I’ve also found that I’ll always be their mom, that my heart will always be full when they call or message me, that there won’t be a day that I don’t think of and pray for them, and that I’ll always be there when they need me.

While my own mother has gone to heaven and I often feel the sting of her absence, and someday my own children will face my departure, I won’t face the absence of God, my heavenly Father, ever. I remember growing up into young adulthood and often resisitng my mother’s advice for one reason or another because I knew I could “do it better” than she did. As the years passed, I began to realize she knew much more than I did about many things and I began to seek out her advice. When she died I realized what a treasure of advice and counsel I had lost. In the same way, the older I get, the more I realize how much I need and rely on my Father’s counsel.

I”m grateful, so grateful, to have learned to trust Him rather than resist Him.

Life is beautiful in His family.

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On a side note, another innocuous change in me as a parent as I’ve grown older is found in my lunch offerings for my fourth child, our bonus baby. Yesterday, she had samosas (a fried slightly spicy meat pie that is the food of heaven) and marshmallows for lunch. I was tempted to feel “parent shame” until my oldest son (who I had messaged her menu to) said, “It’s ok. Let her enjoy life.” 

The student has become the teacher!

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Categories
Choices Love Misfit Missionary Rejection Serving

The Chips Will Fall

It’s hard to live out our convictions in an increasingly hostile world – and I’m not only talking about the hostility we see on the news or internet. In our personal, day-to-day lives it’s not uncommon to come face-to-face with intense rejection any time we choose to go against the grain of what is “the norm.” In this atmosphere, it’s difficult to know what “the norm” is at any given point in time; it feels as if we are walking on eggshells trying to keep everyone happy. The problem resulting from working as hard as we do not to rock the boat is the incessant gnawing in our souls of not living authentically before the world (see 1 John 2:10).

I’ve written about this subject many times approaching it from many different angles and why the tempation to please people holds us as it does instead of living truthfully, continues to evade me. One simply has to experience the pain of rejection once to learn the lesson: living for the approval of others will ultimately drain us of our of joy and energy. However, instead of learning this lesson, we work harder to fit in, to make sure everyone knows we are just like them – and this further complicates extricating ourselves from the complicated world of peer pressure.

When I was a teenager, I thought peer pressure was something that would fade away as an adult – was I wrong! Peer pressure (I know that’s the old fashioned term) grows from a trickling stream in our childhood into a raging river in adulthood. Unfortunately for many, fearing rejection prevent us from daring to live out loud. The importance of living authentically is often put off until later in life when one finally tires of the unreliable opinions of their peers.

The pressures of living authentically differ radically from living to please others. When I chose to live truthfully before the world, it did (and does) create waves. It has taken time for me to allow the “chips to fall” where they may – but the truth of the matter is that I am not living to make anyone besides God happy. I’m not even living to please myself because like my peers, my emotions and opinions are unreliable and can change from one moment to the next. The only unchanging opinion belongs to God; He is consistent, reliable, loving, patient, kind, and always has my best interests at heart and this puts Him in a category all by Himself.

I will face pressure no matter which way I choose, but I’d rather live in the Truth I’ve found than in the shadows of fearing rejection.

As a misfit, see my entry Musings of a Misfit Missionary for a bit of background, I understand the pain of being misunderstood and rejected. I’ve been told that I’m selfish, short-sighted, irresponsible, and “the worst parent” in the world (the full account of “the worst parent” comment is told in our book, No Retreat – No Regrets which will be re-released this year). It’s very hard to face those kinds of words without giving in to the opinions of those hurling them at me, but I’m thankful to have had the overwhelming grace to stay the course and continue living the truth of what God has called me to be: a misfit missionary.

Living truthfully doesn’t give me license to live ugly and confrontational towards those who don’t understand. On the contrary, it gives me license to love more, give more, and serve more. It may be that living the truth in love might give those who don’t understand a greater understanding of the love of a Father Whose interests for them far outweigh the opinions and ultimate rejection of their peers.

Imagine this: there’s Someone Who really cares, really wants the best for you, and died for you to make it happen. That’s the kind of person Whose opinion has won me over.

Jeremiah 31:3 NASB I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

Categories
Choices Harvest Healing Love Uncategorized

The Dance

Worship
No on knows what’s behind these lifted hands.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post; we’ve been in the middle of a move and if you’ve ever moved you know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, the house we moved to is a short distance from where we were, making the actual transporting of our things a bit easier. I still need to hang curtains for the few curtains I had are too short to fit the windows – I’m wondering how long I can bear leaving my few bedsheets on the windows.

I’m forever explaining myself away.

Why I’ve not posted a blog.

Why my husband and I choose to keep pursuing overseas missions.

Why, why, why do I feel indebted to explain everything away to everyone?

Romans 13:8 NASB “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

Inside I feel, as I suppose many of us do, the need to be understood and accepted. I easily concur with the above verse from Romans; the only debt I have to others is to love them. However, I want others to love and accept me and my natural tendency is to explain things away to gain approval.

What a waste of energy because the opinions people have of us can change as swiftly as the direction of the wind.

In our church here in Bujumbura, we have a lovely lady named Mama Christine Makamba who is one of our cell leaders. To get by, she farms; she works hard and shares her harvest with poorer single mothers who attend her home cell group. When they arrive at her home for meeting, she has a meal prepared for them and spends time listening to them, praying for their needs, and trying to help them find a way to feed their young children.

This past Sunday, as usual, Mama Makamba and I chatted about her group, about certain ones we want to help, and as she talked I marveled at her smile. Her joy is almost tangible when talking about her ladies and the change in the lives of her members. Her frustration also rises to the surface when she feels she’s not breaking through and making a difference.

What most people don’t know about Mama Makamba is that she is 67 years old (she won’t mind me saying so), has had 10 children and was a pastor’s wife in one of our churches. Her husband died about 10 years ago from complications of a stroke he had a few years prior. Two of her 10 children were poisoned and died and she has had to face the harsh realities of life as a widow in Africa. I can’t imagine what she has had to endure.

And yet, she has the strength to smile and the strength to love. She believes in paying that debt of love.

On Sunday, Mama Makamba is the only older person in our worship team. Everyone else is much younger but they all sing with her without regard to her age, and I think this is because she loves them all and it shows. She leads them in joy and love – and when she dances something moves in the heavenlies.

No one, besides God, knows the price she has had to pay, the price any of us have paid to get to where we are and there’s no explaining away the work of God in each of us because His grace meets us all where we need to be met. No one else, besides ourselves, can “get” what He has done in and for us and that gives us reason for joy.

I’ve decided, instead of explaining, to follow Mama Makamba’s example and dance – God knows why I’m dancing and He is the best Partner.

Zephaniah 3:17 NKJ “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

 

Categories
Family Love Marriage Missions

Lists, Beds and Dishes

Someone once said to me that they admired me because I was organized enough to get things done without writing a list. I stopped and thought for a moment and realized it was true. Lists weren’t something I adhered to mostly because if I wrote one I would forget that I wrote it and forget where I placed it! I tend to wake up in the morning and just go and do what needs to be done.

My husband, Jamie, is the polar opposite when it comes to listing. When asked what he has going for the day, his reply, “Let me look at my list.” He’s very old school when it comes to lists in that he writes everything down that he wants to get done every day. I’ve learned not to look down on his list system as he gets things done and rarely forgets something that has been listed. I even ask him to write things down to remind me – he gets a bit upset when I ask him and wants to know why I won’t write my own lists to which I reply:

You know I’ll forget that I wrote it down and I’ll forget where I put it. It’s not rocket science, I get up and go and hope the chips land in the right places by the end of the day.

I think it’s pretty amazing how we have learned to function over the years. We used to clash over things like listing and washing dishes but over time (35 years this July!) we have evolved in our understanding of one another. For example, he doesn’t understand why I like the bed made because:

We’re just going to sleep again tonight, why bother making it again?

To which I respond:

Then you have no opinion over what bedspreads or decorative things I use.

We are at peace! At first, he didn’t make the bed and I got somewhat used to his view on the matter. Now as the years have passed, I’ve found the bed made from time to time when I’ve not made it! I think he must like me.

Years ago when we first moved overseas, I was busy with three young children at home and naturally let him cover most of the mission office work. I thought I had enough on my plate (and I did) just trying to get from morning til evening with the family. I reckoned that he should take care of the office – until I watched him one day. Jamie worked hard to keep everything in order but was swimming in administration. I’m pretty good at telling people what to do, at least that is what my kids have said, so I quietly (almost imperceptibly) began taking much of the administrational load from him. Slowly I assumed the task of writing our newsletters, overseeing some accounting for him, and other mundane but necessary tasks. I think I really like him a lot.

We have learned to take up the slack for the other; neither expects the other to fit into some prefabricated mold. Our responsibilities overlap in such a way that works for us, our marriage isn’t what’s “my” job or “your” job. Our marriage and everything that it’s about is “our” job. Sometimes that calls me to give a bit more and other times he gives a bit more, and we try not to keep track of who is ahead in giving. We’re cool with one another like that.

I didn’t set out to write about our enigmatic way of working together but this blog, like our life together, doesn’t ever end up looking like what it started out to be! Life with Jamie has been an adventure, I can never say he’s not taken me anywhere. I can also say it’s been very good to grow together in love as we wait for the next part of our adventure to unfold.

At the same time, I still like the bed made and dishes washed and he still likes lists. Maybe I should write him a list about the dishes and bed? Nah, that might be pushing it.

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Categories
Comfort Death Loss Love Ministry The Unexpected Why

Leave Your Shoes At The Door

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Two weeks ago, we received the very sad news that a young woman, a niece of one of our church members, had died suddenly. Until very recently, she had been a healthy young mother of 3 young children all under the age of 8. When this news came to us, immediately our hearts hurt for the family – especially for the young children who had lost their mother.

After Sunday service, a day or two after hearing the news, we went with other church members to the “kilio” (wake) where friends and family had gathered. According to custom, men sat outside in chairs that had been quickly set up under a makeshift tent. Women and children filed into a small front room from which all furniture had been removed. There were woven bamboo mats lining the floor where everyone sat. Most of the senior ladies sat closer to the bereaved, while those who weren’t so close as well as children sat along the opposite side of the room.

I followed the line of ladies into the room designated for them and brought my 10-year-old daughter along with me, we all left our shoes at the front door as it is customary to remove shoes when attending a wake. It may sound strange that my daughter accompanied me, however, the church member who we were visiting whose niece had died, is our children’s church director.It was only natural for children from church to come and show their love and support for their leader who is very much loved. This wake was the first time my little girl had experienced anything of this kind and I wondered how she would react. My worries were soothed when I watched her follow her friends and remove her shoes as they did, and sit on the floor with all the other children. I told her it would be alright if she wanted to sit with me but she declined, she wanted to be with the other children. Her bare feet mingled with those of her friends and her eyes took in the setting. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is seen in the children and I saw it that day when in the rawest of settings, my little girl embodied the love of the Kingdom when she sat to comfort those who mourned.

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We all took turns, one by one, hugging family members; the inevitable flow of tears and sobs ebbed and flowed throughout our visit. The children even took their turn to give their condolences and theirs was perhaps the most appreciated by their teacher as she talked with each one and took in their hugs and love ever so deeply. I understood even more on that day the priority that children take in the Kingdom of God.

Luke 18:16 NKJ“But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; forof such is the kingdom of God.'”

Not many days after our visit, we drove to the graveyard and laid this young mother’s remains to rest. Present were her children, husband, and hundreds of friends and family. The weeping at the site is one sound I’ll never get used to and neither should I. The pain felt in those left behind is very real; if we ever become accustomed to the sound of death and the pain felt by those losing loved ones, how can we ever comfort them? We do know that life apart from the body is lived in God’s presence (2 Cor. 5:8), but there remains a real loss for those left behind. This is why we are told to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). This “ministry of presence” brings strength to those whose strength is depleted when death comes knocking as it does for everyone, even multiple times, during our lifetimes as loved ones leave us when eternity comes to call.

Still, it remains in my mind some days later, the picture of the children’s shoes outside the front door of the house on a warm Sunday afternoon. I can feel the warm breeze blowing through the front door, hear the weeping of children, and feel the sting of death – and there was my little girl in the middle taking part in the “ministry of presence.” 

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Categories
Inconvenience Kindness Kingdom Love Pride Sight

Of Glasses and Vanity

glasses

I’ve come to the realization that my eyesight simply isn’t what it used to be. An optometrist told me a few years ago that my age is at fault for my ocular malfunctions. After recovering from the “age” comment, I felt somewhat betrayed that my eyes would rebel against me to the point of requiring full-time vision correction.

At first, I only needed glasses for reading, I was able to swallow that pill easily enough and carried on with life. Fast forward just a few years and everyday tasks became impossible without my glasses – reading recipes, deciphering the lettering on my measuring cups and spoons in the kitchen, recognizing someone’s face on the other side of a parking lot, all became difficult. I found it cumbersome to put my glasses on and take them off repeatedly during the day and finally succumbed to the need of wearing them all day long.

Vanity has driven me to great lengths to find the perfect pair of frames and I have yet to find them! Vanity also drove me to wear contact lenses; I happen to like my green eyes and am now in the throes of wearing daily contact lenses in order to keep them from being hidden behind my glasses.

As irritating as it may be to wear glasses, use contact solution, order new contacts all the way from my optometrist (Dr. Reiter who is amazing, and did not make the age comment, if you’re in South Florida and need your eyes taken care of she’ll take great care of you) and have them delivered by FedEx to Malawi, I can’t imagine not correcting my vision when it’s in my power to do so.

Yet, when it comes to seeing what’s really important in this life, there have been times that I’ve been in need of a heavenly optometrist. I’ve been guilty of neglecting to correct my vision, finding it inconvenient to open my eyes to what’s at stake: the souls of men and women. The noise of life, the angry TV news reports and overboard social media blurbs, have made me focus on the “rights” and “wrongs” in society rather than keeping my eyes on Kingdom business. It’s easier to take sides than it is to be a Kingdom worker, for God sees all humanity equally through lenses of love. Those lenses force us to see not only the true condition of others but also of ourselves in light of Who He is – the Great I Am.

Has the truth of John 3:16, that God loves the world, become so foreign to us today that we conveniently edit out the truth that everyone means everyone? Everyone not only means those who we think fit into the mold, but also those who especially don’t fit into the mold. Everyone from the Midwestern housewife, the school janitor, exercise instructor, orphan, billionaire, and Syrian refugee is seen equally through the eyes of our Father. He simply loves them and wishes they would become part of the family.

I wonder how much our spiritually poor eyesight keeps us from working with the Father to grow the family; how much have we actually harmed the effort to bring the prodigals home?

2 Peter 3:9 Voice Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise—slow is how some people want to characterize it—no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s.”

The next time you see someone at the grocery store or sleeping homeless on the street or even see angry newscasts on the TV, dare to look behind the veil of what this world would have you see. On the outside, people appear to have it all together or be the authors of their own misery or at the mercy of a ruthless dictator. Their external circumstances belie who they really are: the apple of God’s eye.

It’s time to put our glasses on.