Posted in Family, Good night, Mother's Day, Perspective, Time

The Last Time Mama Tucked Me In

I wrote this in 2015 remembering my mother and wanted to reshare it as I remember my mother this Mother’s Day weekend. She’s been gone for almost 11 years, but she’s not gone from my heart. Happy Mother’s Day Aiti. I love you!

_______________________________________

I tucked in my little seven-year-old girl last night in her bed in her bedroom. She had a night light. She had her music. She had her baby doll that she had to have for Christmas. She had the most important item of all: her blanket. We were all lying down in our beds and sleep had begun to descend on us when I feel a light tap on my arm. I opened my eyes and the unmistakable voice of my baby girl wakes me up:

“I can’t sleep.”

We tried to get her to her bed a few more times; it’s late and school comes early in the morning so guess who makes her bed next to mine, gets tucked in, and sleeps soundly? This happens so much in our house that our three grown children complain that she has gotten the princess treatment.

Perhaps she has, I reason with them. I do, however, distinctly remember all three of them on the floor in our room many weekends. Three a night in our room = three nights with one seven-year-old. I’ve won the fight of reason, albeit barely.

I’ve watched all three of the older ones grow – the first two have already left home and the signs of the third one leaving are already there. The truth of the nest becoming emptier are all around me and still my little one remains with me for a while.

It’s been some years since I left home to marry my husband. I remember all of the activity surrounding the events of our courtship, engagement and then wedding. There was a shower, presents, dress fittings, florist visits, and rehearsals to tend to. My mom, she went to be with the Lord in September 2008, was busy with preparations and invitations. As time for the wedding drew close, we were like ships passing in the night as she worked and I was going to school and working. We didn’t have much time to connect.

The night of the rehearsal dinner came and went. Afterwards, we all went home to try to get some sleep. Nervous, I checked my dress, rechecked it and made sure my shoes were still where I placed them in the closet. In finally fell into a light sleep after some nervous hours. In the middle of the night as I was dozing, I saw a light turn on in the hallway and the unmistakable silhouette of my mother enter my room. I laid there as she put her hands on my shoulder and prayed for me and cried, wiping tears as she asked for the Lord’s blessing on my life. After some time, she tucked me in for one last time and left the room.

My eyes are now drawn to the little bed on the floor. Mom’s prayers have carried me for many years and have touched all my children and landing on bonus baby number four. For now, I think I’ll keep working on tucking her in in her room but when she needs to come and have a “mom and dad scare the bad dreams away” sleepover in our room I’ll be happy to pray for her and remember the last time mama tucked me in.

She will spread her wings soon enough. Until then? Come here sweet one, mama is here.

Posted in Forgiveness, Grace, Kindness, Leadership, Mercy, Patience, Perspective

No Pogo Sticks Either

We stepped out for an hour this past week to have a short meeting with some of our leaders at church. Since we would only be gone for about an hour, we allowed our youngest daughter to stay home alone. She has matured and we have begun allowing her to be at home for short periods of time as we run errands or hold short meetings. Our compound where we live in Bujumbura is safe; we have neighbors behind and beside us that are as concerned about the security of their homes as we are ours and we knew that she would be alright for an hour.

The security drill is as follows: keep the phone nearby at all times and answer every call or message we might send. The doors stay locked, no going outside, and no surfing the internet (we lock devices away). TV is allowed as is homework; almost torturous I know! Feeling satisfied that she hadn’t totally tuned us out during our “I know all this mom” discussion over rules and safety, we set out for our meeting.

After an hour, we made our way home and as we walked to the door, I saw her sweet little face greet us from a window as we entered, “I want to say that I had fun! I had fun!” My mommy senses were tingling, something was definitely up.

Sweet fingers nervously folded together she explained that the past hour she had played with water in the living room and created a slip and slide – the floors are perfect for sliding. My eyes betrayed my feelings, “I made a slip and slide! You’re mad aren’t you mommy?” Rewinding the tape of my own childhood antics in my brain, I briefly relived a few of my own moments. No sweet girl, I wasn’t angry I was actually impressed; I had never thought of making a slip and slide in the living room, nor had the three older ones ever come close to this level of ingenuity. Her eyes pleaded for leniency, she had tried to clean up after herself and she did have fun.

slide-595742_1920

Relieved that water hadn’t been spilled on electrical appliances or anything that could be damaged, her punishment was to dry the floor (we have a super clean floor right now) and endure the lectures that ensued for days afterward. While it seems she might have gotten off lightly, if ever there’s another slip and slide, there will definitely be greater consequences to face. She assured us, “I won’t ever do that again mommy!” But, the slip and slide will forever receive props from all of us and the memory of I had fun will endure in my parenting records and on into subsequent generations.

This afternoon she is playing with friends and again the house is a playground, we often say that this is Andreya’s world, we just live in it! I did end up sending them outside as the ruckus was getting beyond our ability to contain and now the party continues by the laundry line. Listening them makes me smile, the mess really doesn’t matter, it makes me so very happy to see her happy.

I think God must laugh at some of the messes we create, our slip and slides in the living room, that we thought would be fun to do but later created a bit of a mess to clean up. The effort of cleaning the mess is punishment enough, lesson learned – hopefully! Next time, it might not be so easy to escape the consequences.

Today, I had to step out for a few minutes and the usual run-down of rules had an additional item or two added just in case:

No slip and slides, no hot air ballooning, no flying trapeezes and no pogo-sticks either!

 

Posted in Faith, Fear, Missions, Perspective, Reputation

Feeling A Bit Sheepish

Today I’m about to get real with you about fear. What makes me afraid to step out? Why do I recoil when facing my giants? Why is it so easy for me to be afraid? I’m afraid of what might happen. I’ve been down this road many times and what might happen frightens me.

Today I received an email stating our medical insurance premium was due by May 1st. Living overseas in Africa, we have a basic emergency plan; we don’t have a lot of other coverage as we’ve been priced out of the “meatier” policies. When the notice came through, I told my husband, “Uh, our insurance is due the 1st of May and it’s gone up.” A lively conversation ensued as our policy is paid bi-yearly and the price had gone up by about $300.00. Do we renew? How do we renew? What about travel insurance later this year in the USA? And so on.

I might have overreacted (insert sheepish grin) as I remembered in years past when we have had to use our medical insurance and the huge impact it had on our finances not to mention the stress of one of us being unwell. I couldn’t imagine what repercussions we might face if we didn’t renew or find something else for our family.

Truth be told, while we have faced giants, big, scary ones in times past, we are here today. Somehow we made it. God brought us through, He took care of our needs; His record is good and I’m counting on Him to stay true to his Word. I know He will take care of all of our needs and this includes our bills like medical insurance.

Isaiah 41:10 NKJ Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Maybe, like me, you just need to remember the times God has been there for you before and how He has made a way when it looked like there was no way. He has helped us, and He will help us again!

“If I cannot hear ‘The sound of rain’ long before the rain falls, and then go out to some hilltop of the Spirit, as near to my God as I can and have faith to wait there with my face between my knees, though six times or sixty times I am told ‘There is nothing,’ till at last there arises a little cloud out of the sea, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”                   Amy Carmichael

______________________

Amy Carmichael was a missionary to Japan and India for 55 years and founded the Donavur Fellowship. Her life story is one worth reading. She was also a prolific author and poet. For more quotes by Amy Carmichael, click here.

Posted in Courage, Cross, Endurance, Faith, Perspective, Regret, Resurrection

Unlikely Candidates

When I held my firstborn for the first time, I was overwhelmed. I was afraid to lift him for fear of doing something wrong but after the nurse deposited him in my room she was gone and he began to cry. What else to do? I lifted him into my arms and began to learn how to comfort a crying baby, it had to be done.

Things changed quickly that day; before having children I really didn’t know what it meant to take charge and do what was needed at any given moment. When diapers needed changing, baths needed taking, and crying needed soothing, I was there and did what I had to do. In the years that followed I had 3 more children and each time the ability to do what had to be done was there. It didn’t matter how messy or how late I had to stay up, I just did it because it had to be done.

All these years later as my youngest is now 11 and has outgrown many of those younger-years issues, I am still amazed at what I was able to do, for in reality I am far from brave or strong.

I wonder about Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. He was a family man, a father of 2 young sons (Mark 15:21) on a journey but was caught in the middle of the mess in Jerusalem at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Luke 23:26 NASB “When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.”

Under the circumstances, Simon did what he had to do. I imagine in retrospect, when he learned of the resurrection of Jesus, his feelings of being chosen to carry the cross were much different than they were when he had the cross placed on him in the first place. Like many of us when we face the unexpected, he may have thought it unfair that he had to bear the burden, he was only on a trip, this wasn’t part of the plan!

Relationships, jobs, volunteering, ministry, and just about everything we do in life will be full of unexpected, unfair, and seemingly impossible complications that will arise and need tending to. Many times, at this juncture, unlike Simon of Cyrene who had no choice but to take the cross as he was forced to, we choose to back away from the challenge because it wasn’t part of the original plan. How much have we deprived ourselves from? Could it be possible that we were chosen in that difficult situation to carry something for Jesus?

After Jesus was crucified, His body needed to be buried. I doubt anyone made plans for it as his 12 disciples abandoned Him. There remained a task that needed to be done and the most unlikely of candidates chose to muster his courage: Joseph of Arimathea. The Bible says in John 19:38, 39 that he was a disciple “in secret” for fear of the Jews. We always equate secrecy with weakness. This apparently wasn’t so in this Joseph’s case for at the moment when someone was needed, he did what had to be done.

Imagine if Jesus’ body hadn’t been buried in a tomb. In that time when someone was crucified in this situation, unless there was someone willing to bury the body, the dead were thrown onto garbage heaps outside the city where wild animals swiftly disposed of them. If this would have happened to Jesus, there would’ve been no empty tomb to testify of His resurrection, but Joseph of Arimathea did what needed to be done and in the scripture this “secret disciple” is called “righteous.”

Luke 28:50,51 NASB “…Joseph of Arimathea…a good and righteous man…who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.”

I wonder if the key to gathering the courage to do what we need to do at any given moment is found in the character of Joseph: being someone who is waiting for the Kingdom of God. I imagine Joseph followed the ministry of Christ and being a learned man knew the Scripture. As his heart was right in waiting for the Kingdom, he understood to some degree that Jesus was special and part of the plan of the Kingdom he was anxiously waiting for.

Whatever you’re facing today, you can do it, you have the strength in you to get the job done as you focus on God and putting His Kingdom first. You may not understand what is happening but God is with you to complete the task. At the end of the day you’ll be able to look back without regret knowing you did what you had to do. You carried the cross.

1 Samuel 10:7b NLT “…do what must be done, for God is with you.”

Posted in Faith, Familiarity, Fasting, God's Word, Ignorance, Kingdom, New Year Fast, Perspective, Rejection

However

My daughter has an amazing imagination; she’s easily moved by things she sees and hears. I have to be watchful about what books, TV shows, and media she is exposed to as she will often have dreams (good and bad) about what she’s read or watched. More times than I can remember, she has come to my room in the middle of the night and cuddled next to me because of a bad dream she has had.

My mother-in-law rocked all of her grandchildren to sleep, and is now rocking all of her great-grandchildren so far, by singing the song, “Be Careful Little Eyes.” There’s more truth to that little song that we need to cling to than most of us understand. There are only 2 doors of entry into anyone’s thoughts and that is through what is seen and heard.

img_0068
Rocking chairs are the best places to fall asleep.

Unfortunately we tend to desensitize ourselves throughout our lifetimes by allowing ourselves to be exposed to things that do little to build us or help us grow. Indeed, we need to be informed of what is going on in the world – but how much do we need to listen to in order to be informed?

Ephesians 1:15b-20 NLT “…I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

It would seem that what we need to know is not the wisdom of this world but rather God’s wisdom that we find in knowing Him. We know God more when we spend more time with Him. I have a suspicion that many of us know more about politics, health trends, celebrities, and fashion than we know about our Savior.

The person that I know best in this world is the one I spend the most time with: my husband. I’ve worked side-by-side with him nearly all of our married lives. It’s not always been easy but the more we work together, the better we get to know one another, and the better our working relationship becomes. Sure we’ve had to learn to give and take; sometimes I give more, sometimes he gives more but in the end we get things done.

4kcoq7gft0iyvt10nbcuig
Climbing Mount Heha in Burundi with our daughter Andreya.

The relationship we have with God is much the same – the more time we spend with Him, the better we get to know Him. You may think I’m only referring to time spent reading His Word and praying, and yes that is an extremely important part of getting to know Him, but I’m also referring to spending time with Him in other ways. We can be with God when we spend time with other believers, because when 2 or 3 of us gather, He is with us (see Matt. 18:20). We also can spend time with God in worship, alone or with others (see Ps. 22:3). We simply need to be a bit more aware of what we are doing in order for us to connect with Him wherever we are – because He is always with us (see Ps. 139:7).

I dare go further and say that we will filter what we hear God saying to us through a filter of what we know better: Him or this world.

Luke 8:18 AMP “So be careful how you listen; for whoever has a teachable heart, to him more undersanding will be given; and whoever does not have a longing for truth, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”

Perhaps the most important quality we can possess is being teachable; having the ability to absorb truths that God is trying to communicate to us. We can’t take His truths in, however, if we are better acquainted with the world’s system than we are with God’s because we will naturally reject things He is saying because they “don’t make sense.”

God’s way of doing things run cross-grain to this world; He won’t be influenced in any way by popular opinion or reason.

Luke 8:40-56 gives the account of Jesus’ healing of not only a woman who had a long-standing hemorrhage, but also of Jairus’ daughter who died before Jesus could get to her side. In verses 51-53, Jesus enters Jairus’ house and found a crowd of mourners that had gathered “lamenting for her.” Jesus told them to stop crying as the girl was only asleep and He was summarily mocked – because everyone knew the girl was dead, what more could be done?

What follows the laughter of the crowd can easily be missed as it is only 1 short phrase in length: vs 54, “He, however.” Not minding the crowd, Jesus moved ahead and moved against common sense: the girl was dead. Indeed, she was dead, but that did not matter because “He, however” had other plans.

This year and beyond I want to live in “however” and I can only live in “however” when I know Him better than I know my natural circumstances. Getting closer to Him will help me walk by the crowds into “however.”

______________________________________________________

O Be Careful Little Eyes

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in Love,
So be careful little ears, what you hear.

Be careful little mouth what you say
Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little mouth, what you say.

Be careful little hands, what you touch
Oh, be careful little hands, what you touch.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little hands, what you touch.

Be careful little feet, where you go
Oh, be careful little feet, what you go.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little feet, what you go.

Author: Unknown

Posted in Holy Spirit, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

I Got It All Wrong

A little over a year ago, just for fun really and because I thought we could contribute something interesting and useful in the area of working overseas in missions, I started a podcast. It really didn’t enter into my mind whether or not there was a special technique involved. “It’s so easy to start a podcast” was the message out there and I felt encouraged to soldier on into a new world of communication. I knew ours would be a simple endeavor considering my setting (we live in Burundi, Africa). I read up on the basics of podcasting: how to submit your podcast to iTunes, adding it on to social media accounts, among other things, and simply got started.

Of course I’ve been told I’ve “gotten it all wrong” because “everyone else does it this way” i.e., translated a way other than what I was doing. Had someone said this to me when I was much younger, it would’ve bothered me quite a bit. You see, one of the benefits of growing older is learning to let go of any negative effect that the opinions of others have on us. I’ve learned to listen, make corrections, and even ignore comments made that have no bearing at all on what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ve gotten so many things wrong according to what “they” say – but each and every time I’ve fallen for what “they” have said instead of allowing God to weigh in with His say, I’ve ended up miserable. Through that wonderful school of hard knocks called “life,” I’m finally at the place in my walk with the Lord where I know without a shadow of a doubt that what God wants from me is far more important than what anyone else would like to see me be or become.

So our podcast is so very simple; some may call it “dumbed down” to nothing. I don’t have any intro music, nor do I have facy fade-ins or fade-outs. I’m not against giving it a bit of polish but considering where we are and what we have technology-wise, having one as simple as ours is a victory!

As our world becomes increasingly desensitized to God’s voice in its pursuit of all the bells and whistles of remaining relevant, we risk being swept away in the current of sacrificing the message for the sake of being relevant. In this place of pressing to be accepted and current in society, things like prayer for those who need Jesus gets pushed farther and farther into more secluded areas in order to keep people comfortable. The Holy Spirit has become a ghostly phantom rather than a powerful presence. We slowly get lulled into a spiritual slumber thinking that if we draw bigger crowds then we are surely becoming more successful.

Jesus spends most of Luke 12 warning those following Him of the dangers of flowing with the crowd and allowing even a little bit of the world’s “yeast” to enter into our lives. That little bit of compromise, that little bit of trying to please everyone and not sound crazy might lead us somewhere we would have never dreamed of going.

**On a side note I’d say a lot of what we see in society today is itself pretty crazy so those saying we’re crazy don’t have much to talk about but that’s another entry for another day.

Luke 12: 51-53 MEV “Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For there will be from now on five divided in one house, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” 

Jesus’ desire isn’t for people to be in conflict, but in stating that His message would bring division seems to be in conflict with the “Peace on Earth” message (Luke 2:14) we’ve just come from celebrating during Christmas. Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) so how can a Prince of Peace cause division? He knew that people would not readily lay down their own ideas in exchange for His. He knew that people would reject His message that results in ultimate peace. He knew His message would run cross-grain to all cultures all over the world throughout many millenia. This is largely a result of our desire to be in charge; after all, we know better than anyone else what works in our culture, right?

Matthew 11:28-30 MEV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

What everyone all over the world have in common is that they labor, they are heavily burdened. What those labors and burdens look like from country to country vary; in Africa the majority of the population labor simply to have enough money to feed themselves and their children. In the developed world people labor to maintain what they have accumulated. No matter what the labor – it is labor and it burdens us and causes us to work, sometimes frantically, to ease the burden we bear.

True rest comes from letting go of our own opinions in exchange for His.

This year I want to rest and that will look like I’m getting it all wrong – and that’s fine by me.

Posted in Despair, Destiny, Endurance, Faith, Family, God's call, Missions, Perspective, Rewards, Sacrifice, Thanksgiving, The Call of God

Always

I’m happy.

The fact that I can say that despite all of things that need attention around me makes my head spin. I have so many frying pans in the fire that I’m running out of firewood! Spreading myself thin has taken on a new meaning in the past few years. By no means is this a complaint – I wouldn’t live a life other than the one I am now living – but if I’m not careful I can quickly slip into feeling overwhelmed, sad, and helpless wondering about what I left behind in the wake of answering the call that lies before me.

I tried a few times in my lifetime to fit into the normal mold of what a Christian mother/wife/leader (whatever I am) is supposed to look like. The popular Bible studies and books meant to “better” my life all lined my bookshelves; they didn’t just line my bookshelves, I read them all and I learned, oh did I learn, that I am an enigma among my peers. This has caused me great frustration over the years; I would find myself wondering (and sometimes still do find myself wondering) what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just like everyone else and be satisfied with what normal people are satisfied with?

I’ve long dreamt of a home of our own to settle down in. My husband and I have tried a couple of times to “settle down” and do what we thought was expected/needed from us. I lived in a house in the USA for just over 2 years that I loved. I thought this was to be the place where my grandchildren would visit me and I would finally be able to “nest.” I kept it well; I loved it so – but the tug for what waited for me on the other side of the horizon called my name every morning and evening.  I planted a garden and a hedge and it was beautiful but there came a time when a choice had to be made and we drove away from that home for the last time. We once again said goodbye and boarded a plane, looking for the place that kept calling our names from the other side of the world.

I’ve dreamt of being a normal mother and grandmother. Well, I know I’d never be normal in the classic sense of the word, but I have dreamt of being accessible, nearby, to see my grown children have children and watch their families grow. I pictured myself wearing bright red lipstick, driving with my grandchildren to buy toys and ice cream and feeling their little arms around my neck and telling them how much I love them. Seeing them through Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetime does little to soothe the ache that fills my chest whenever their names are uttered. Then, they resume living and I hear our names called from far and I have to answer.

On a far less serious note, I’ve dreamt of having a dishwasher, a SUPERMARKET with lunch meat, hairspray, shampoo, soap, and Ziplock bags, and a nice salon where I can get my hair done – ice cream would be amazing too.

In the distance, however, a people calls our names and where they are, I can’t find any of these things but what I do find in doing God’s will brings me deep joy that I can’t explain.

I suppose today’s blog is my Thanksgiving blog and I have so much for which to be thankful – and at the same time I find myself wishing that the traditional Thanksgiving turkey would be on our table tomorrow. I wish for the day to be surrounded by all those who are far, to hear a loud football game playing on TV for my husband, to pray a Thanksgiving prayer and tell each one how much I love them.

But a traditional Thanksgiving is not in the cards for us this year. We don’t have a turkey, no stuffing, no eggnog, no gravy, and no football game (although I’m quite sure my youngest son will find a way to send his dad a link to view the game). What is in the cards for our Thanksgiving is a day with those who are here with us. We will have, of all things, homemade enchiladas with salad and a cake for dessert. With those family members and friends we have here we will give thanks, thanks for all we have and for the opportunity to answer the call. Yes, I thank God for the opportunity to say yes, to obey Him, to grow enough in courage and faith to answer when He called.

The call took away so much of what we would consider “dear:” family, friends, culture, language, finance, and more. Things that you don’t think you would miss like toothpaste and your preferred brands of shampoo suddenly become a big deal when every day you are reminded of all that you have left to answer Heaven’s charge.

While all of this could sound bleak to one who’s never answered their call, those of us who have heard our names calling us from lands afar, “count it all joy.” (James 1:2-4)

Psalm 119:2 LB “Happy are all who search for God and always do His will.”

 

 

Posted in Feeding, Missions, Perspective, Provision, Sick, Waiting

The Pots Were Too Small

I feel like everyone’s grandmother. Whenever someone comes over, the standard question I ask is, “Have you eaten?” I don’t know why I have this seemingly inborn need to know if someone is alright, if they are hungry, if I can do something. My mother was the same, she went to great lengths to make sure everyone had something to eat. I think she must have had this tendency passed on to her from her mother, my grandmother. I remember at our family gatherings, as a small child sitting around the table, my grandmother fussed over everyone, making sure everyone had what they needed.

Now this mantle has fallen on me and try as I might, I am unable to shake it.

Often when we say we “need” something, we really don’t need it; we may be more comfortable with it, but it really isn’t a need. My husband (the ultimate non-shopper) says, “You can’t wear more than 1 pair of shoes at a time.” To date, I’ve not been able to win that argument (please message me if you have something I can use when I’m out shoe shopping with him next time).

In the past 31 years, I’ve been blessed to see hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of hungry people fed here in Africa and I’ve not yet tired of handing out plates of food to those beautiful extended hands. When someone is truly hungry, that plate of food speaks more of the love of God to them than thousands of hours of the best preaching on planet earth.

fullsizeoutput_872
Feeding in the hospital, September 2018

Matthew 25:31-40 NLT vs. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”

Today, as we do every month in Bujumbura, Burundi, our church team fed in a local hospital. Here in Africa most hospitals do not feed their patients. Therefore, reaching out and feeding the sick translates into feeling better faster as patients need to eat well to recover properly; poor nutrition equals poor recovery. As happy as I was to go feed, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to feed all of the patients. The pots were too small, we didn’t have enough for everyone and this was not at all to my satisfaction.

While waiting for the food to cook (we feed roughly 100 patients), my eyes caught a glimpse of 2 very large pots that looked familiar. I found out they were cooking pots that I had bought in 1997 when we were feeding 1,500 displaced children daily during a time of unrest in the country.  My heart sank when I learned that the church cleaning team was using them to wash chairs. Soon, however, it was time to go and my mindset changed from what I saw at the church to the task at hand – tending to the sick in hospital.

As we handed out a cooked meal, soap, and sugar, I visited a man, Yakobo, who has been hospitalized for over 2 months after being hit by a car. He was transported from his village to the capital where we live to get help and that help was delayed due to a lack of funds for much-needed surgery to treat multiple fractures in his right arm and both legs. We first met last month just a short while after his accident and when I met him, his situation moved me to tears. I began writing email appeals, spreading his news everywhere in an attempt to find help for this dear soul.  His hospital bill was over $500.00 (expensive for this particular hospital) and neither I nor the church had money to pay for this bill on top of everything else on our plates. While we waited for God to answer our prayers, I sent food to him and his caretaker weekly. I struggled to keep myself positive – how was he going to get the attention he needed?

Just a few days ago, while fighting worry over his situation, I was messaged online by an anonymous local donor who wanted to help. They requested his name and where he was located which I gladly supplied. On Friday when we delivered his food to him we found Yakobo smiling, he had his first of 3 surgeries. I chastised myself for being surprised at this answer to our prayers – God heard and answered in a way we weren’t expecting. Yes, more surgery is needed but we know that God never leaves a project undone.

Yakobo recovering from surgery
Yakobo recovering from surgery after 2 months in hospital. September 2018

More critical needs came to my attention today and together with the team, we did our best to address what we could. It was tempting to feel desperate for all the different situations until we passed by another patient that we had prayed for two months (yes, two months) earlier: a small child who had an advanced case of tuberculosis and malnutrition. Two months ago when we initially prayed for the child, I fought my own feelings about what could be done for her in such a state. Her stomach was distended due to severe malnutrition and she cried constantly as severely malnourished children do. Today, while still in poor condition, she was markedly better and eating. We stopped to give thanks to the Lord for more answered prayers – indeed God would finish what He had started, full healing is on the way.

fullsizeoutput_875
Still in frail condition with TB and malnutrition, this one is beginning to make a recovery.

 

As we were finishing, the painful reality of how little it seemed we accomplished that morning hit me. Driving home, the usual chatter going on in the car, I prayed, “Let us do more.” My mind then returned to the big pots at the church and I smiled remembering how many times from 1987 until now God has come through to help us feed the hungry. Where will the money come from? I don’t know – I’m on a “need to know” basis only but there’s one thing I know:

The pots were too small today, but we can fix that.

85v5wEwwRRGiIEclrrTxBg
Bought in 1997, my big pots are ready to be fired up again.
Posted in Peace, Perspective, surrender

My Surrender

Once I heard of a church here in Africa that called itself the church of the, “intellectuals.” Obviously I didn’t qualify for membership. Yes, I do have papers, degrees, certificates, a longish cv (because I’ve lived a while now) but I only make use of them when necessary (i.e., proving qualifications and experience). Don’t get me wrong, I love studying. My husband often says if there’s a book lying around I will read it – and he’s right. However, I felt grieved when I heard of this gathering of people based on their perceived intellect. I say perceived because intelligence isn’t always measured by education; there are many who have earned numerous degrees but fail to produce results in the “smart” department.

When hearing of this church for “intellectuals,” I wondered what was the standard for qualification? Was it necessary for one to finish high school to be accepted? Or was a 2,4,8, or 12 year degree required? On this continent, even having finishing secondary school as a qualifier drastically reduced the number of qualified applicants making the church of “intellectuals” an elite society indeed.

Everywhere I go around the world, it seems people group themselves according to social preferences. It’s rare, if not impossible, to find a city in the world where everyone finds common ground on which to stand. The poor, who spend each day working for their next meal, find it difficult to understand the rich, who are busy trying to maintain their excessive lifestyles. The educated who understand a bit about science, find it difficult to communicate with the uneducated who are bound by folklore and superstition of the region. Unconsciously the lines separating society are drawn and the all-too-familiar divisions surface to hamstring the progress of unity.

Ephesians 2:14-18 NLT For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.  He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”

The things that divide us must bow their knees when confronted by the reality that in the sacrifice of Christ which supplies us with what we need: peace. The cross removes hostility, the cross removes the wall that separates, the cross removes what divides – and this peace is impossible to attain without the cross. Peace that unites has evaded and continues to evade every system created by mankind throughout history and will continue to evade us unless the cross is given entrance.

Yes, I know what many are thinking at this point, “Why are Christians so divided?” The answer is simple: there’s a lack of surrender to the work of the cross. Were all believers to surrender to the point that is seen in Ephesians 2 above, the divisions that plague us would disappear almost effortlessly. The enemy (who is Satan, yes, he is real) knows this and works to divide in order to keep the church void of power. This surrender to the cross doesn’t rely on what others may or may not be doing – I am only responsible for my surrender and Christ is the One who then draws those together who have surrendered to be connected together in His body to form His church (Colossians 2:19).

But first of all, it’s my surrender.

Posted in Comfort, Eternity, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

Best Before

old-letters-1082299_1920

I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation of typewriters, handwritten notes and telephone calls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was new, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Have I become out of style myself? Am I past my “best before” date?

In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, my best before date falling many years into the future.

The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report on a store in Europe that uses these items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families. The savings passed on to those in society who are more vulnerable has been remarkable.

While groceries can go out of date, truth doesn’t expire. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required.

What appears to be forgotten in the static that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth can be as damaging as rejecting it for without exposure, truth won’t be understood by the hearers and when it is spoken, it sounds foreign.

1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”

The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods that are fallible, it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down:

Proverbs 27:6 NKJ“Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.

2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?…” 

People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding; they won’t like the way its packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right, in the face of truth (whose message seems to be irrelevant to the current crowd). The problem with questioning the truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with the changes making truth relative instead of absolute.

Truth is what gives us security and safety. My children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.

Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided end up themselves rejecting God’s truth for they have not experienced the unconditional truth of God’s love.

Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church – and the church has, by and large, succumbed to the whims of what is relevant, popular, and will “draw the crowds.”

natural-2923242_1920

It may be that the frustration we feel, however, is after winning the crowds we fail to keep them or, if we do keep them, see them become active participants in what we know has given us purpose. While appealing to the culture of our surroundings is necessary to speak communicate the message of God’s love to those around us, appealing to culture will not keep a hungry soul.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Hidden in the heart of everyone, God has placed a sensitivity for things eternal. If what we offer to those we are called to appeals only to the surface, the longing of eternity will drive those people to find what their hearts long for: a connection with the Maker Himself. For the sake of keeping the harvest of souls God gives us, we have a responsibility to bring them beyond appealing to the culture but to address the longing for eternity.