Holy moments have been missed since the Garden of Eden was closed.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
God chose to enter the world through a baby.
Imagine it ... He created a miniature image-bearer of Himself, made it completely helpless, sent it into the world by means of pain, and packaged hope in that tiny, wordless messenger. The animals in a manger-cave were witnesses to the birth of baby Jesus. He did not choose a mountain top or mansion or palace or synagogue. He chose the humblest place to deliver His greatest gift.
And God chose to come to us through a baby.
…....and He keeps doing it.
I watched her face most of all. I knew her face would tell me everything.
We had entered into that realm where words would be lacking, when so much more would be said in silence.
My eyes were riveted on her face. I looked at little else.
My daughter was becoming a mother. Her own beautiful childhood danced about inside my heart as I watched her become a mother.
My ears could not hear the words being spoken, they sounded like Charlie Brown's school-teacher --- waa, whaa, waaa, whaaa, wa... Buzzers, monitors, voices, instructions and the sound of Maggie breathing as she worked – somehow my ears could not decipher all the input.
But her face. As long as I could see her face. I knew i'd see it all clearly if I could just keep her face in my sights. Her face would show the bare-truth of each moment. Prayers gushed upward as I watched her face. It was beautiful.
And it happened.
Her face went from intense work --- to the most peaceful glow. Her mouth went from a straight line of focus --- to the gentlest, peaceful smile imaginable. And her eyes --- they went from closed to opened in wonder. I heard nothing, I saw his arrival in her face. And the next movement that came --- her arms. They reached for him. It was her first reach of many --- she'll reach for him with a mother's love for the rest of her days. Her face showed he had finally arrived ---- her arms reacted immediately. And Heaven-filled-the-room.... “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done----on earth as it is in Heaven....”
Jesus spoke those words.
We should have our eyes focused for those moments when the Kingdom delivers and His will is done right in front of our eyes --- here on earth. We miss so much when our eyes are off-focus.
It's those fleeting moments when we'll see “on earth as it is in Heaven” --- when earthbound feet are released from clay for brief, beautiful moments, and we rise above it all to see His more for us. So like our great God to choose the glimpse of His Kingdom coming in the quiet arrival of His freshest creation.
It's not an exaggeration at all. Truly. When a baby arrives ---- a tiny spec of His Kingdom has come.
We can choose to see it, or not. We can choose to ignore it, or not.
Oh but I, I chose to sit in awe as I watched God work a miracle in front of my eyes as our daughter grabbed hold of His great robes and worked hand in hand with Him.
It was a holy moment.
Holy moments have been missed since the Garden of Eden was closed.
Holy moments have been missed since the Garden of Eden was closed.
But, they are still happening ---- and most often they happen outside the walls of Sunday's meeting places.
Holiness ---- it came in an animal stable. Nothing was neat and proper about the setting. The setting is not the focus. The arrival hall of Heaven's gifts are rarely polished, perfect places. For our great God brings His Holiness right into the middle of our imperfection ---- and it's all about seeing that HIS KINGDOM HAS COME (it has nothing to do with the setting or decorations or lack there of).
It rolled through my heart and mind in slow motion even during those swift seconds of “on earth as it is in Heaven”
---- all while I watched her face.
Maggie is a beautiful person, through and through. If you know her, you know it's true. If you don't know her, well, hopefully someday you will.
She's a jewel. Ray, her husband knows it well. And he's a solid rock treasure as well.
And while Maggie is not a vain, self-consumed person who focuses on how she “looks”, she is someone who takes care of of herself and works to be her best in all she does.
In the moments when God grabbed hold of her hand and whispered to her soul, “let's work together here daughter, I've got a little Heaven-kissed gift I'd like to share..”, when her great work began, the work of labor and delivery, she was not focused on her ability or perfection or even worthiness of the gift. Her heart, mind, and soul were focused on the Giver and His gift.
Her everything was focused... in such right ways.
She was watching for ---- “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done---on earth, as it is in Heaven.”.
Her labor was working to bring a baby into the world ----- but it was also working to bring a bit of Heaven to a needy earth.
And oh what we can learn from that whispered lesson delivered in the delivery room.
It (life, living, performance, ability).... it is not about us and who we are or what we've done or what we didn't do ----- it's just simply not about us friends.
Our eyes will serve us best if we'll take them off all the stuff that bogs us down in the middle of all that is so unholy........... and instead, raise our eyes up, setting them on the One who delivers Heaven to earth in the silent package of a helpless babe and says to those who will hear Him, “I'll bring the holy part, you take my hand. I'll bring Heaven to earth, you just work with me. I'll work the miracle, you just breathe...”
He arrives and brings heaven's greatness with Him ----- no matter where we are. If we'll let go and let Him.
No matter what we bring ---- His holiness changes us.
We waste too much precious time trying to look or be or act or impress.
When it's all about His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven --- that's where beautiful everythings will burst onto the scene and we'll have those moments of standing in the flow of the river of real-life --- and we'll know we're there when what just happened in front of us or to us or in us came from God --- because we know, we-----could------not-------have--------done--------it.
Further still we know, I -------did-------not--------do--------it.
We're the first to know, God ---- did------this!
Heaven touches earth in front of us when the silent miracle appears and we know --- God did that.
I didn't do it.
No person did it.
No one could have brought that about (although some will try and take credit for it).
But I know --- deep inside, in the deepest places of my soul ---- I know only God could have done that.
That's it friend --- that's when we are standing on Holy Ground because Heaven has just touched down.
And it doesn't come in neat, polished packages.
But if our eyes have been re-focused rightly ---- we see the perfect arrival of Heaven-moments.
Our God is so flawlessly good ---- He is brave enough to share His holiness with us.
And we wonder at the flow of it.
He breathes His perfection into a speechless, wet, tiny messenger that can't walk or talk and has no seeable-skill at all, and He watches to see, will anyone notice my presence and holiness if I package it this way? Awww, our Abba wants us to see Him in the silent, still, small things. His greatness is packaged in them. And the more we stop and see Him, the less we'll care about the big, loud, flashy things, and the greater His chances are to transform us more and more into another of His still, small whispers into a loud, hard world.
Babies show it to us in their arrival.
They are messy, have nothing, they're naked, they're helpless, they can't speak even one word --- and yet we can't stop looking at them --- because we know, tucked inside that precious soft skin is the very breath of God. We are mesmerized as they deliver Heaven to earth. It takes our breath away.
The silent bundle is a teacher.
We grow up and become speaking, walking producers of something ----- professionals, home-owners, workers, money-makers, opinionated people with “rights” ---- but each accomplishment seems to take us farther away from the wonder of Heaven come to earth.
------ oh good Lord, we have so much to learn.
It's not about us – nothing is actually about us – what we can do or how much we've accomplished. We work to become something important only to realize in the winter of our lives ---- it really never was about us.
It, the whole purpose of life, is all about how much Heaven-goodness we allowed to flow through us into this wounded world.
Heaven comes to earth ---- miracle moments unfold ---- when we lay ourselves down and watch for His arrival. When we choose humility --- and grace --- and “you first” --- and generosity --- and prayer ---- and kindness --- and the holy-thinking of “how can I best accomplish this task so that i'm not seen nearly as much as God's goodness is able to flow through it...”
In the moments after little Gunnar breathed his first earth-air, the doctor laid him up on Maggie's chest. Heaven had come down, a speechless package spoke volumes, the air was holy. I could feel God's nearness as He released His dear Gunnar into the arms of His chosen parents. And then one of the most beautiful things i've ever heard or seen followed on the heals of the most beautiful moment i've ever witnessed.
Ray---- tall, strong, new-daddy Ray, wrapped his long, muscular arms around his wife and baby, and he prayed. Into the same air that Gunnar had just begun breathing, the air His Heavenly Father released him into, his earthly Father talked with his Creator-Father, and thanked Him for the gift of Heaven coming to earth in the little package of this son. Ray committed their hearts and home to care for the gift, and thanked God for His miracle.
… and I wondered how the Father above must have smiled...
... if angels watching shed tears... (as we did)
… if everything shifted in unseen ways because two fathers held hands at the exchange of the miracle.
As Ray prayed, I watched her eyes.
Everything was being said in her eyes.
She's a mother, holding Heaven's-gift, wrapped in arms that call Heaven down around her, she's loved, she loves, they love, Abba loves -------- and Gunnar will grow under their care and God's cover as he becomes what his name declares ---- “warrior”.
Heaven delivered a tiny helpless babe ---- but “on earth as it is in Heaven” he will become one of Heaven's warriors among us.
Only God can do all this ----
my eyes were set on her face, and it was there that I saw Him... again.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Our car passes from one world to another; carrying us from pavement to dirt, smooth to rough, and barely processable to utterly unprocessable surroundings.
Is “unprocessable” even a word?
Today it has to be.
The creation scene around us is breathtaking. The mountainous scenery speaks of solid strength and power, no man-made building has ever done that for my soul. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is deeply moving and beautiful, yes. But it's small in comparison to what the Creator can do with color and space. Slopes dressed in green with grey rocky outcroppings, laced with a blue-sky crown and white-puffed clouds for jewels. The creation speaks of powerful peace ---- but the man-made muddle of confusion underneath it quickly deafens the earth-bound ear.
For it's the troubles created by man that have once again broken the heart of the Father and He has turned our hearts in this very direction. And I am reminded of HIS goodness in the middle of this mud. If Abba were not good, then He would not care what is happening to His creation. And if He did not care, He would not speak to our hearts concerning it. And if He did not speak to our hearts over it, we would not glance in its direction, since HE is the barometer for what is good and what is not. It is HIS heart that stirs the hearts of His image-bearers. It's His longing to respond, once again, to the ones who cry out to Him --- this longing of God is the reason our feet have landed where they are found.
I sit with this truth often: If God were not so good, I would not even notice what is not good.
It keeps my head straight in the middle of the battlefield, where the enemy wants to fling spears of lies to try and twist truth --- where doubts can break us quicker than stones. The liar will say – if God is good then why do such bad things happen?
Oh but does that enemy realize how deeply foolish and off-point he is? For knowing God means we actually know what GOODNESS is --- and if we did not know His goodness, we would not even be able to recognize the opposite of Him. And it is the enemy of Goodness that has authored the very badness our Good Father is calling us to respond to. Always under His cover and because of His love.
It's a battlefield for sure --- where the Great God who is good, wants His children to respond with Love to the deep-running attack of evil against innocence.
Doesn't the Word say that “Love covers over a multitude of sin”?
So I sit often with the truth: If God were not so good, I would not even notice what is not good.
Bad does not happen because God is weak or uncaring. Bad happens because... there is this fallen being who hates God and hates goodness and works to defeat and discourage and destroy what God loves dearly (us). Hurting us, is the fallen ones way of hurting God. So God calls on His children, the ones He has poured Himself into by our own invitation to Christ, to respond on the battlefield to the devastating attacks on the innocent ones.
Should we be surprised --- or discouraged --- or shocked?
We can hardly resist being leveled in our inner most parts when we see just how low, gruelingly low, the enemy of our good Father will go, as he works to wound the heart of God.
But should it be allowed to stop us?
Should we become fearful --- thinking warped thoughts like --- “if this can happen to them, then shouldn't I get out of here and not dabble in these terribly broken places – shouldn't I shore up my walls and lock myself in to a safe place...?”
Another truth comes in response: Fear is the opposite of Faith.
Faith defeats giants because Faith focuses on the Faithful One.
Fear defeats us, because fear compels us to take our eyes off the Faithful One.
And if our eyes sway from our Father, we're as powerless as the dust we're made of.
It's the blood of Christ touching the dust of us that makes us able to stand --- wherever the good Father places us.
When we arrive, after bouncing down a dirt trail where feet and pikis (motorcycle taxis) and donkeys only travel, we hear their songs (yes, the wounded girls are singing). I open the door and in doing so, I remove the last barrier between my safe cocoon and their world of lack.
You see, I recognize each layer of a cocoon, since I lived most of my life tucked deeply inside one.
We step into wet mud. The kind that sticks.
The kind that dirties the bottoms of our clean shoes.
And He whispers to my soul, “It's a wasted life that keeps the soles of its shoes clean in a world filled with wounded souls longing to be cleaned.”
He has spoken those words so often to me in these latter years of my life.
Clear – the words come through clear --- and they pour a resilience into marrow.
I'm not crazy. It's not foolishness that opens my soul up to His whispers. Some might wonder...some might.
But I know it for sure --- because I know what life feels like apart from those words. I remember well how it feels when my thoughts and the world's words filled the spaces in me.
When you know the difference, you know how it feels when He whispers inside.
And it's those whispers received that are the mimicking of David reaching for that smooth stone in his pouch with a Goliath roaring in front of him.
And there's a wave of courage flowing around us as prayers have filled the air between us and the good One and those He will place in front of us here.
It's in those places where I must hold on to His Truths, otherwise i'll never make it.
We are welcomed with kind handshakes, hugs, and the warmest of eyes.
We walk into the sweet hillside church made of quarried stones with wooden rafters holding a tin roof above us. It's a church that holds His children. It's like a fox-hole dug out in the middle of a battlefield. It's a place provided to tuck in, a rampart, a hiding place. And it's here that rest can be felt and dry cups can be filled.
There are lovely Kenyan ladies leading the songs being sung by the Kenyan girls standing before them. It's the way we know our Father loves it to be done. Let the “mommas” of the land who love Him deeply, lead the girls of the land who wonder (about God) as they wander (in hard places) and watch (for goodness). We are to support these “mommas”, making sure His Truth is handed out, and doing the part we can beside them. Eyes should not come to us and land there --- I watch so closely to be sure they don't land for too long on us. We are not the answer........ but we know the One who is. The wrestling now, in front of these dear girls, is to be sure they shift their eyes from us, and settle them on the Good Father who whispered to us concerning them.
They must somehow come to see, that God is good and He sees them, He cares for them, He has responded to them. We are simply carriers.
Like pigeon-carriers ---- I love that those pigeon's just do their part when they feel the message clipped to their foot and their wings are released to fly. They go where they've been taught to go, carrying a vitally important message with them. And never does that pigeon puff itself up and think it's done something big. It's just thankful to find a receiving hand on the other end of its journey. It has no real knowing of the important work the messenger is able to accomplish through it's willingness to fly and land where it's been told to go. Now we, are a bit different than a pigeon, yes. But --- even as we might think we know a bit about the message we are delivering --- do we really know the fullness of the flow being delivered into the hearts and minds to these girls --- the flow from the Messenger to them? We know it in part, but we can not know it fully. Our minds can't conceive all that HE is able to do; our minds can only grasp it in part.
I love that.
Why? Because it matches the other side of this in front of us. We've been told of the horrors these beautiful young ladies face ---- even seen the evidences of their wounds. But truthfully, I do not KNOW the depths of the pain they feel. My mind can not fully conceive their thoughts or sorrows or griefs or needs. My mind is so limited. But not the mind of God. He knows them deeply, completely, He knows their going out and their coming in, He knows the purposes He knit into them, and the He knows the way to actually use their pain to strengthen them towards His plans for their futures. And He knows that His plans for them are good IF they will love Him and allow His purposes to guide them out of the pain. He is the One who can use all things, even the things intended for deep harm, He can use them for great good if we will allow Him to.
So I see --- I don't know the fullness of the work of the Messenger --- and I don't know the fullness of their depths of suffering. I know each piece ---- in part. But what I do know is that the One can meet the other perfectly ---- and my part is to help defeat the enemy's lies and bring His Light to their darkness. My part is to connect the good One right into the middle of the pain.
HE IS NOT AFRAID.
He will go straight to the center of their suffering. And He will do things there, that no eye has seen or heart can fully understand. But He will do it. He knows what is needed.
He is the Giver of that Peace that passes understanding.
I don't have to understand it all. But I know it is true. I know it is good. I know goodness and light do defeat darkness and evil.
So we reach in our pockets for the smooth stones. And we do the part that we understand.
|We divided into small groups for a time of Q&A, prayer, and sharing of hearts.|
These beautiful girls have washed themselves carefully, cleaned their school uniforms tediously. (No one else washes what they wear.) They look so good, they are doing their best. I've lived here long enough to understand their unspoken messages sent through their eyes. They wonder... do you know what i've done? Do you know what I face?
And my eyes speak back, I know. And I see you. And you are trying to be brave. And you matter so much. And i'm glad you came today. And you are seen by the One who is bigger than your pain. And you are important to Him. You are loved, really loved. No matter the muddiness of your world.
It's deep heart-soul work.
To not fixate on what they face in their lives. But instead to fixate intensely on the importance of the note tied to my heart for them. To focus only on the heart of the Messenger, His message to them, to their hearts.
Focusing on the surface lands the message only on the surface.
Meeting their hearts is the heart of the Messenger.
|Small group time with some of the younger attenders. Quillen supported as Emily led the group. Emily grew up on the mountain herself --- she knows first hand the challenges these girls face. She also works with us at ICM/ATS.|
These girls live in a place where few parents can afford to meet their needs. School fees alone usually overwhelm their pockets. In a country where school is said to be free, somehow there are still fees each term that are nearly impossible for most families living on the mountainside to produce. (Corruption?)
Their nice school uniform is one of the requirements ($$).
They are required to stay in a boarding school since travel each day would be impossible since there are no “good” schools within walking distance. (keep in mind that even an “good school” here is so very different that what those words might make you think). Boarding school ($$)
School supplies, books, note-pads, soaps (for body and laundry), all needs that must be met while away at school --- ($$$).
Parents will go without food themselves in effort to TRY and give their child a different life. And here that different life comes through getting an education. ($$) And how thankful we are that parents are now willing to send their daughters to school. In some places, and for decades, only sons were allowed to go to school.
But when the girl grows into a young woman, and the “monthlies” begin to come. Few parents have the extra $ to buy pads for her. At home, they can use rags, washed daily. But at school, there usually isn't enough water provided to wash those rags. (Having enough water for basic needs is a challenge in many boarding schools here.) And the girls are so embarrassed to hang those private things beside their beds at night ---- since there are some girls who have “disposables”. Can you believe a world where having disposables each month becomes a “status” and a tool used in peer-pressure?
There is a real NEED. I can't put more words to it than that. It might seem so small in some worlds --- but in their world it is a mountain.
So how has evil responded to that need.
Dirty, twisted, depraved men living on the mountain seek out the needy girls and offer to “sponsor” them each month. When the girl goes to be “sponsored” he will then ask how she can repay him for his “kindness” to her. She knows what he wants. It's the o-n-l-y thing she has to give. She gives. She loses. But------ she is not “shamed” at school when the monthly comes. She is able to attend classes, and work to keep her grades up. High grades please teachers and parents. Low grades bring severe punishment from both. Keeping in mind too that the one thing she is able to “give” to the dirty man, is something that was likely already taken from her during her childhood. It's a different world --- where darkness has won for too long.
Recently the government became alarmed at the growing number of pregnant girls (11-13 years old) living on the slopes of the mountain. They did studies, created reports, wrote a few articles, and admonished the schools for not having tighter control. One school official said, “These girls are causing so many problems for us...”
When all this happened, the dirty-men told the girls to no longer call them “sponsors”, but instead to begin calling them their “prayer-partners”, since few people would ever question her willingness to seek out prayers............
When this occurred, some girls shared with their REAL prayer-partners, ladies at the church. And that's how it came to be that our messenger-feet found this space.
This team of four Kenyan ladies began praying for God to open up a way for them to provide for the needs of these girls. Nearly a quarter of the girls in the area have become pregnant over the past year. Almost all because of the dirty-men using them.
One of these ladies asked me to pray for them, for God to help them help these girls.
|All together -- a nurse, lawyer, secretary, student, Bishop, teacher, and church leader. These dear Kenyan ladies will continue the monthly work as true prayer-partners, mentors, and suppliers of needed feminine products. We're so thankful for them!!|
After 3 weeks of earnest prayers ---- my heart was broken for the ladies, the girls, the families – broken through and through.
Sharing my heart through writing to those who walk closely with us --- within 2 weeks, God had responded, through His kids. And the four Kenyan ladies saw doors open before their eyes. Provision for needs can be met --- through TRUE prayer-warriors.
As we sat off to the side, that day in the church, 3 Kenyan ladies taught them many truths. They invited us to share words as well, words to encourage the girls, to strengthen them in their resolve to understand that now they actually have a choice!!!! (and this choice will be theirs forever, in Jesus' name).They can choose freedom from false “prayer-partners” and instead a new walk beside true-prayer-warriors.
Each girl left with supplies for the next 3 months. (And the knowing that at the beginning of each term of school, they can come to the Kenyan ladies and receive their needed supplies for the entire term.) She will have all she will need to care for herself personally. The One who made her will provide for her, through His kids, because He asked and they responded. Messages clipped to feet ---- that can speak to hearts.
It's not so much about responding to needs in “perfect” ways. It's about responding with Abba's heart gushing through our hands.
I grow weary sometimes of critical evaluations assessing if, when, why needs should be responded to. How? (perhaps assessing the validity of motives for helping).... do they really deserve it ?(implying this is their fault).... will it really solve their problems ?(implying the problem wall is too big to chip away at).... even words of “how do you think you can actually help them”? (Oh God knows --- the weakness that keeps me on my knees)... ?? (by the way, none of the questionings came from beautiful supporters – instead they are found in books written to try and curb ineffectual giving to uninformed doers --- and those questionings are definitely worth spending time sorting through.) But how it wearies the soul when questions build walls that keep love from flowing.
Love doesn't say you have to accomplish the final product. Love says --- each step counts and the One who IS LOVE is using each step towards the Omega of it all.
Love can only win if it moves/responds/acts.
|Steve playing with children from the surrounding community while we are with the girls.|
Love standing still, and critically assessing every angle, accomplishes nothing. And does real love actually do that?
Love washes dirt away --- with living-water.
Love is God's response.
Love ran red on the cross.
Love isn't afraid to get its hands dirty.
Love knows the gush of living water can wash away the dirt that clings.
Love in action --- Faith not fear --- renewed Hope ---- these ride on wings of carrier pigeons-with-souls-in-mind.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
What makes any of us good? What makes a man or woman good? It all hinges on what fills them and leads them and compels them to respond. It's their willingness to let the GOOD ONE live inside them, and respond through them. No person is good. Only the choice to love the Good ONE above all else, can bring them out of darkness; and there we find what is good.
So may I humbly edit Mr. Burke's quote to more fully say ---
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the goodness of God to be hindered by timid men, causing them to do nothing.”
Oh God, give us your strength to carry Your goodness........ and then ---- let us come home.
(What gratitude we feel for the many who responded to our email asking for help for these girls. The response was more than we ever dreamed it would be. We had prayed and asked God for a certain amount --- we went to our knees as God multiplied the amount we asked Him for --- 5 times over. The girls on the mountain slopes in this one area will have their needs met ---- for a long, long time. Now, they have a real choice --- they can be free from the user-abusers, and feel cared for by the One who responded to the prayers of many concerning them. And may they see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”!!!!)
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Part 1 – it happens... things get broken
She shared words that were hard in coming. Words that told a story she wished had never been written. I said in the softest flow of air, “You can't stop what's happened, but you can choose a different ending than the one you're in now.”
No vase would choose to be shattered. No heart asks to be broken. And when things break, the world would say it has been ruined. It is useless, it is finished.
But the world is wrong......... again.
Because the One who is above all things looks at that same brokenness in a wiser way, with a keener eye. He says He can bring beauty from a pile of ashes --- He can bring streams of water in the desert --- He can take what seems ruined ------------- and make it------ new.
It's the way of brokenness.
Few will invite it to come. Most refuse its approach. Usually we have no choice.
So rather than allow it to complete it's work in us, we fight it --- deny it ---- medicate it ----- run from it.
When we've known the hammer blows of personal brokenness, and lived to see the smoothing out of something rough in us, then we begin to understand it.s importance. But until we've known its effectual work, we struggle to sit still in its unsettling presence.
It's one of the huge differences between living in a first world place and a third world place. The contrast is stark. In a third world environment, there are few ways to escape the “thing” that is working to break you. You have no option, you can't simply go to another place and begin doing a different thing. Need and hunger hold you still. But in a first world place, there are options, choices, ways to get away from the thing that is pressing down. You can pick up and move, get another job, leave the spouse that's hurting you, get in your car and drive to a new life.
But what if you're a child and the brokenness is coming to your parent, who is not covering you, and their brokenness rolls into your little world. You can't escape it. (In a third world country like Kenya --- this is exactly how many street children come about. They do run --- to the street. And a different, mean, worldly kind of broken begins to breathe.)
Or what if the breaking is coming in the form of a disease. Even in a first world place, there's no way to hide from it's impact.
It's just that brokenness is a universal thing --- it comes in every corner --- and to everyone.
Yet when it comes to us, when it's painfully personal and standing on our doorstep, we can feel so alone. Alone is not good. We were not created for aloneness.
She knew that something was gravely wrong. Tears came as her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.
Our toes dug into the sand, we watched families playing in the waves, the sun began to set. She'd endured life, and worked to overcome much pain, but her past was haunting her present and fear was crashing in again.
Grave – it's the right word for it.
She could smell the pungent stench of death, her eyes could only see the struggle around her. And her strength, all of it, was being consumed (and wasted) on trying to maintain, survive, endure, and find a way to defeat the problems before her. And they weren't just her problems anymore. They were the problems being lived out in the lives of her children now ---- their hurts carried a faint echo of her own even though they knew nothing of her story. She had held it silent for all her 60 decades.
It looked exactly as though the other person in this painful “Life-Play”, was the cause of the stench. It was their sin, their fault, their wrongdoings that caused the problems. (And to a very large degree, this was oh-so-true!)
If they would just change....
or perhaps if they had just disappeared...
“could they just go away please?”...
“Then this suffocating dust could settle and the sun might shine again and life could get back on course... perhaps happiness could then come.”
But as surely as that solution seems so right ------ it would only be a temporal reprieve. For that would be the outward way of “relief” --- not the inward way of “healing”.
When the struggle inside us collides with the hammering-tool outside us (the situation, the person, the sickness, the “problem”), our eyes become fixed on IT, the problem. We put our focus on IT. We laser in on it. And all our mind can think on is “if this thing was changed, I could find peace”.
IT is the problem. Right?
But what of the Holy Words that say, “In this world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid. For I have overcome the world”.
Doesn't that mean that in this old world, there are going to be so many “its”? Struggles will abound. Problems are “normal”. Oh but I cringe even typing those words.
It's a hard reality --- not a sparkly, feel good truth --- it's raw.
Troubles come ----- then they go ---- then others come -----
The woe-is-me-soul would want to throw in the towel and give up on life. But not the Jesus-in-me-soul.
Have you ever walked on the ocean's shore, sand under you, sun above you, and waves steadily pounding beside you? There's a rhythm to the steadiness of it all; on most days it comforts us in some inner way.
Then the sun gets too hot and we long for the coolness of the water. We inch our way in, toes first.
As she spoke, the waves beside us seemed to speak as well, “keep going, we're not shocked by anything you might say”. They invited her every word, they were not afraid. Waves know what to do with the dirt of life.
The cool waters feel good to our feet, so we keep moving forward. As we make progress into the waters, we come to that place where the waves crest. Where they peak and then fold, tumbling down in a ribbon of white rush. That's the line where, if the wave has any size, we might get knocked down. When we walk to the line of the rolling waves, we either choose to let it knock us over OR we choose to lean into it.
The former means the wave is unbroken and it will carry us where it wants to. That's usually a whirl of confusion in foaming, sandy waters.
But the latter means the wave line is broken and we find ourselves still standing on the other side of the impact.
Either way ---- something gets broken--- either the wave line is breeched or we are.
If you've ever found yourself coming against a big wave in the ocean, you know this, you have to brace yourself, even crouch down, bend your knees and lean forward to be able to endure the impact.
For me ---- those big waves require that I ---- bend my knees.
I've never once conquered a wave with straight, board-like legs.
Try it sometime if you never have --- you can't do it.
It's the bending of my knees that gives me balance.
It's the bending of our knees that gives us balance.
Part 2 --- Facing the waves wisely
In this sharing, the waves represent the “in this world you will have trouble” part of that verse.
Unbent knees, stiffness, will not serve us well when facing those waves.
Bent knees, a lowering of ourselves, better allows us to withstand the impact, and find ourselves in a new place. We're not bending our knees to give in to the trouble --- no, we're bending our knees to balance ourselves against its impact.
Have you ever noticed how calm the water is just beyond the wave line? (calm at least until the next wave comes)
Too often we might think of the wave line as the place where we should become strong, rigid, firm. We think if we get tough, we can beat the wave. But it's not our strength that will get us on the other side of the impact.
More Holy Words speak directly to this thought of rigid strength winning. “Not by power, not by might, but by my Spirit say the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)
The way of the world says, get stronger, meaner, tougher --- fight fire with fire --- if they hurt you, you hurt them more.
But that world-way doesn't fit with the Abba-way. Jesus showed us clearly. His greatest show of strength came on that cross; He stayed there during the breaking. Then His greatest show of power came at the mouth of that tomb.
Our willingness to face the “wave” wisely (because “in this world you will have trouble”),
to “bend our knees” (“do not be afraid”), and choose to focus on the calmer waters beyond (“for I have overcome the world”), (John 16:33)
------ this will carry us through.
It's not the removal of the wave that is needed.
The waves are there ---- they will always be there ---- they will not be removed --- until Heaven.
If it's not this person, it will be another person. If it's not this challenge, it will be another like it. If it's not this unkind situation, it will be another. The waves are always there.......
(and if we can r-e-a-l-l-y understand this at a soul-deep-level, we'll find a storehouse of grace and mercy for those around us who are being tossed about in waves of brokenness)
It's not the removal of the waves that will finally bring us happiness or peace or calm.
It's our willingness to face them, and allow our bended knees to break the impact that will bring us to new places in life.
What happens to the wave?
If you've ever bent your knees, lowered yourself, closed your eyes, held your breath, and leaned forward into a wave, you find that you can endure it. The whirl of its waters will pass by. Then the wave continues on to where it was going. But it has not carried you with it. It might even lift your feet off the ocean floor briefly, but if we keep our positioning, it can not carry us with it.
Therefore ----- our stance does not change the wave. We can not change the waves. We can not complain about them enough, argue with them enough, fight back against them enough, or in any way alter them. We have no control over the wave.
What we can do ---- what we do have a control over --- is how we choose to face it. It is our only chance at altering the outcome.
It can either throw us backwards onto the shore and crash its waters all over us OR we can choose to bend our knees, lower our center, and lean into it.
The waves of life ------
they might intimidate us with their size, they might hit hard when they come, but oh --- with bent knees and a “lowering of self”, they will not push us backwards into old places.
So this means that I can't face the waves without bending my knees and lowering my center of gravity.
Those two things must be in place ---- two things that will allow a breakthrough --- but two things that will also allow a “breaking” in me.
It's a very different kind of “breaking”. Not the brokenness that comes from the hand of another; it's rather a brokenness that comes IN the hands of the FATHER.
Bending my knees is that visual reference to praying. Bending myself, no stiffness of leg or heart or mind or emotion. (This is a hard thing to do if we're stuck in the “i must defeat it” mode.) Bending my everything to HIM, not it or them. It means I must grab hold of His robes, look for His way, choose His hand on my heart. No more shaking my fist at the wave. Instead choosing His way in the wave. Trusting that He really is good and He truly can carry me through the impact(s) of this life and in so doing, He will be washing me with each wave, He will be washing something from me that needed to go. Something I hadn't even realized was stuck to me. And when I will allow the truth to really come through --- i'll realize the stench that i'd faced so often, thinking it was on the other, was actually also on me.
Only Abba can wash that stench away with His blood. But because of His sacrifice on the Cross, He can also use the waves of life to help us, as we bend our knee to Him.
For just a few lines, i'll share of one wave that repeatedly crashed into my world and left me covered in scratchy sand. For all my life i've been eager for friendship. Even as a little girl, having friends around me, good friends, meant all was right with my world. Somehow I was wired to enjoy friendship. But throughout my life there have been sad stories of friendships gone wrong. Not all my friendships, thank God --- for there are many who have journeyed closely with me for all my days. What a gift. But still there have been several key friends who I treasured so much, who i walked closely beside, but then suddenly they stepped away, and disappeared, sometimes even hurting me in the process. Never once did any of those “friends” come to tell me what i'd done to cause their rejection. Even if I went to her and asked “why?”, there would be no reason given. Just an abandonment of the friendship ---- and i'd be leveled by the wave. Some people, of different temperaments than mine, don't care so much when a friend moves on. But it's been a wave that has pounded me at least 3 hard times in my life. The last time this hard wave came, I lifted myself up to Jesus and said, “Please help me, I need help here, this hurts too, too much.” I bent my knees to Him, lowered my center (myself and how I felt), and asked Him to wash me, wash off of me what needed to go to be healed from the inside out.
And He showed me something IN ME that He wanted to “clean up” (change).
The wave can wash us. It might not touch the one who has hurt us, but it can wash us in good ways.
What was it in me that needed to go?
What needed to be washed away?
He was jealous for my focus. He did not want me to be so focused on that friend, what they thought, how they cared or didn't care, if they responded or walked away. He did not want their actions towards me to matter nearly as much as I was allowing it to matter. He wanted me to lean in to HIM, and not lament over them. Period. It was that simple. And in the bending of my knees in the wave, Jesus said, “Pray for them, give them to me, i'll deal with them, YOU FOCUS ON ME, I will never leave you.”
John 21:22 came alive for me, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, you follow me.” Paraphrased and personal for me it became, “If I want them to... (step away from you), what's that to you donna? As for you --- my instruction is clear to you, you----follow----me.”
Yes, this is a small thing in life right? For some it is. For others it can be debilitating. For me it was bigger than it should have been. I'm letting you see the bottom side of my scrapings as i dare share it here. But, the point is ---- waves come in different sizes and with different strengths. Small or big --- if a wave (a trouble in this world) has the strength to knock us down, then it needs to be handled carefully, faced wisely, and dealt with completely. It needs to be approached and measured and honestly laid before the One who will use it for good in our lives, if we'll hold His hand at the wave-line. Bent knees. A lowering of “me”, my center of gravity (what holds me in the right place). Little or big, if something wounds, then when the wave comes again, as it always will, we can learn to let it wash something off us that needs to go!
Next time you find yourself near those strong ocean waves, do yourself a favor and let yourself experience a visual of this. Don't laugh at me here, resist the urge to roll your eyes (cause you're gonna want to...).
Find a spot on the beach all to yourself. This is not a spectator “sport”.
Carry a bottle of ketchup with you, the cheaper the better.
Stand at the shoreline and pour that ketchup all over your arms and legs. You'll feel goofy for sure, but only for a second or two. Then walk your sauce-covered-self out into the water up to the wave-line. Bend your knees and lower your center of gravity, brace yourself for the waves, don't let them break you --- instead you break their line. Stay there for wave, after wave, after wave. With each wave you'll find you get more accustomed to the stance you need to have, how low you need to go, how much you need to bend your knees. You'll get tired, yes. But you'll get wiser in the ebb and flo of those waves. Let 10, 12, 15 waves come and go, then turn and walk back to the shore. Look at your arms and legs. Is there any red ketchup left? There won't be. What was on you will have been washed from you as you focused on bending your knees and lowering yourself.
Is it a silly visual or a solid picture of truth? (maybe both) :)
Now, be honest with yourself and with the One who already knows the answer to every question. What's the cheap ketchup mess in your life? What is stuck to you that needs to go? (Because if it gets to stay it will bring a world-brokenness inside you.) How many times have you felt its stickiness in your life? Be honest with God about it ---- right now ---- and ask Him to help you as you bend your knees (pray over it again and again), and then lower yourself before HIM (so He can increase Himself in you). Ask Him to show you the new way you need to allow a cleansing brokenness (from HIM) to wash the sticky mess away. It won't happen in a day --- or even a week --- for me it almost always takes a steadiness in many waves to finally walk back to the shoreline and feel “clean of it”. But begin today dear one. Begin today.
Part 3 – Wash me Lord, use those waves to wash me – Broken for GOOD.
Lowering yourself, lowering your “center” of gravity so the wave doesn't catch you off balance and throw you backwards is the picture of John 3:30 “I must decrease and He must increase.” Oh how we struggle in the living out of those 7 little words. For we think we must increase, we must get stronger, we must press our point or win the fight or prove them wrong or take our revenge in order to beat “the wave”. But this, dear one, is the lie of the evil one.
We can not beat the waves with stiff, strong, unbent legs.
We can not stop them from coming, we can not alter them.
But if we will decrease (let go of what needs to be washed away from us) ---- as we choose to increase Him, choose Him at the center, raise Him up in the lowering of “me”, then we find there is a bedrock strength that can stand in the wave. It is He who then causes the wave to wash us, as it passes by, and we find ourselves in a strange new place of still waters.
Watchman Nee writes so beautifully of this lowering of our center --- but his words call it a choosing of brokenness, an allowance of God's dealings. His book “The Release of the Spirit” has filled my plate of late, and opened my eyes to much.
Brokenness is something to be avoided if it's only being used to destroy; where the waves of life keep throwing us down on old shores laced with boulders and sharp edges. This is the brokenness that comes when the world wins and ashes remain.
But --- the brokenness Jesus guides us towards, is something to be embraced. It's a revelation of being able to see what in us needs to go, what needs to grow, and what needs to change. It's a realization of our inability and His ability which compels us to bend our knees. We see the need to lower our center of gravity; allowing ourselves, our will, our attitude, our my-way-mentality to be broken and washed away. And after the work of this kind of brokenness is complete, we find ourselves standing in a new place. A place we thought we could only arrive at if “they” or “it” changed.
Instead we find, ----- the thing that needed to change, was something in us.
Now ---- perhaps “they” or “it” are a serious issue, a real problem, a troublesome thing to endure. No doubt there are those grievous people and painful situations that cause much angst in our lives.
Certainly change is needed in them as well.
But just as we have not power over the wave ------ we know, we have not power to change them.
Keeping our focus set on them, will rob us two-fold. We'll never see the good possibilities of bending our knees and increasing Christ-in-me and we'll never know what life could have been like after the wave-line was broken and the stuff stuck to us washed away.
The answer is not found in running from the waves. The answer is found in overcoming them by facing them wisely.
Life is a constant remodeling taking us from what was to new places of what can be. But in order to get there, we must be willing to let the One who made us, carry us through the waves. And He can only do that when we bend our knees and lower ourselves in His hands.
He will deal with those who wrong us.
He knows --- He sees --- He will deal with them. And a fearsome dealing it might be. (Makes me cringe to think of it, it compels me to pray for them.)
But never forget, He's also watching to see how we respond to the wave-lines in life. Do we lean into Him, bend our knees and lower ourselves as He increases in us? Or do we rigidly fight the impacts of life and struggle in the surf after being knocked down again?
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”2 Chronicles 16:9 KJV
... in my kindergarten way of thinking this verse through, this I know to be solid-rock truth....
I can not even begin to have a “heart perfect toward Him” if I have not become practiced in bending my knees, lowering myself, and facing the waves of life. Letting the waves flow over me in such a way that what needed to be removed inside me is washed away and my eyes are found set like flint on Him.
Oh Lord, help her (the many “hers” --- and the many “hims” too).
Oh Lord, help me.
Oh Lord, help us all.
Wash us again and again -------
Hold us steady in the waves Daddy-GOD.
We trust Your dealings with us on the path of brokenness. You can take our rough selves and find the diamond inside.
The world's dealings with us brings a brokenness that takes our rough stone-selves and pummels us into sand --- where little if anything remains.
Two kinds of brokenness.
One destroys --- the other “makes things new”.
We choose you and your way Father.
Don't let us miss seeing what you see, when you look at us.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Joy is a choice.
Long ago someone boldly said to me they believed LOVE was a choice, and i cringed a bit.
His wife had confessed her unfaithfulness in their marriage; even admitting she had been with other men while carrying their unborn child inside her. What a challenging thing for a husband to face.
But his response ---- “love is a choice – and i will not let her choice alter mine --- i choose to love.”
It was such a profound moment. It shifted something important inside of me.
It is true. Completely and unavoidably true. Love is a choice. We choose to love or we choose not to love. It's not their fault if we don't love them, and it's not to their credit if we do. It's all on us, our choice.
The same is true with joy.
Too often we get caught up in the whirl of circumstances and stress, letting them dictate to us how we should feel. And some days can take our breath away --- in not-good-ways.
But, we always hold the key to how we will choose to respond. No one else holds our key.
And i believe God in Heaven smiles with delight and nods His great head when we choose to lift our eyes above the world-mess-stress; choosing to remember we are dearly loved by Him and HE IS THE ONE WHO IS ABOVE ALL THINGS.
He can take what was intended for harm and use it for good.
He holds the earth on its axis and the stars in the universe.
He saves the world through a baby.
He saves our souls through the shed blood of His Son.
Joy immeasurable is ours because He lives, we're saved, we have a home, the King is our Daddy.
Joy is a choice.
We can get distracted and deceived to the point that we even forget it's an option on the buffet He prepares daily for our consumption.
That's the game plan of the enemy --- to keep us from even remembering ---- JOY is an option we can choose anywhere, anytime.
One way to keep our hearts and minds better able to remember what's on the buffet is Philippians 4:8 -- “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable --- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --- think on such things...”
Then the Word says --- “and the God of peace will be with you...”
Peace and Joy hold hands --- they are tight with one another.
So for JOY to be chosen, we must manage where we allow our thoughts to dwell, we must grab hold of what's good and go with it. There is always a good to grab hold of (we might have to look for it, but there is always a good option)--- joy is a choice.
For me --- i'm actively choosing to set the stage for joy--- for the goodness of the Lord to be seen center stage,
when i :
- Redirect my thoughts from what has grabbed my attention, and choose to guide my thoughts to where they need to be.
- Notice the flower, the cloud, feel the wind, hear the bird-song.
- Light the candle before i pick up His Word in the dark hours of morning.
- Become captivated by the giggles of a child – thanking God for good people caring for her.
- Hear my husband's snores as if their reminders that again tonight... he chose me to rest beside.
- Reframe the actions of the rude driver --- instead choosing to consider they might be rushing to the hospital and need my prayers or they might be rushing to a toilet because they have diarrhea.
- Lingering long enough to see the kindness between two aged-people holding hands as they walk, smiling as they've chosen to wait for each other.
- Pushing through doubt, and choosing to memorize the verse that helps us. Letting our mind go to that verse wherever we are, because we're choosing those words instead of...
- Saying no to the couch/tv/phone/computer and yes to conversation that lets the people around us know --- we see them, we chose them.
The list is infinite. All the ways we can choose specs of JOY instead of robotic responses to life that might very well leave us feeling drained and tired.
Joy has the essence of living intentionally ---- not reacting wearily.
When we take the wrong turn and allow our joy to be connected to another person or place or circumstance, we make it really easy for the enemy of our Lord to pull the rug out from under our feet. Because no person, place, or situation can bear that load. They're not built for that purpose, it's not their responsibility.
When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross He was breathing out the option of JOY onto any who would be willing to see it, and grab hold. But first we must see HIM. Joy comes from Him.
Ben Carson's mother once told him, given his good mind and good God, that if he (Ben) was not wildly successful it would be all his fault. (paraphrased a bit but that was the charge she gave him)
i have learned and applied this same way of thinking to the “choice for joy”.
Remembering all that has been done for me, and all the options before me, if i do not choose to live-with-joy ------ it will be all my own fault.
There may be days of tears (there will be), but the flowers will still bloom, the stars will still shine.
At the end of the day ----- what i choose ------ is mine.
But what of those who suffer intensely, those trapped in places of horrific pain and injustice. What of the sick who agonize with gripping, shooting, breath-taking pain? Am i supposing that joy could still be a choice for them?
It's in those very arenas that knees begin to tremble and the questions will try and wipe the Holy verses out of our head. The verses that keep the belt of Truth buckled. If those verses can be overwhelmed in the midst of suffering, then, joy can float down the rushing river like a life-boat cut loose from its ship. Those are perilous, ominous waters to be adrift in.
So, let's be brave and look into those places where darkness crashes in and birds might stop singing.
I think of Daniel --- he was a real man ---- he wasn't just a long-ago-character in a story.
He was a stellar person on all sides. Even though he had been kidnapped from his childhood home, he still worked to always do the right thing and press himself to excellence. He worshiped God, served the king, and wisdom was his running-mate.
But there came the day when he found himself in a lions den ---- because he wouldn't succumb to a wrongly placed ruling. Was it possible Daniel allowed joy to stay inside him as he descended those steps into the growling pit?
Or what of the day he watched his three closest friends, those he had been kidnapped with and had served beside for years, being wrongfully thrown into a fiery furnace? Could joy have been present as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped into the flames that incinerated the guards holding the door open for them?
Joy might not always show itself on the outside of a person, but it's the presence of joy on the inside that lends great strength and endurance to our steadfast resolve. Not joy in the wrongful thing that is happening, but a joy that is above the circumstance. A joy that whispers into the marrow of bones ----- God is over this, God is with me, God is not defeated, God IS my good Shepherd, yes, though i'm walking through a dark valley, i will not be afraid, for God is with me, His rod and staff surround me... keeping my eyes fixed on Him, He will finish this in His way.
Joy comes (bubbles up to the outside of us) in the morning after the long night of steadfast trust.
Joy is not the same thing as carefree happiness.
Joy has the aroma of powerful faith.
So yes, Daniel had joy coursing through his veins as he descended into the lions den, because he knew his God was with him. And whatever the outcome, he knew God would be in charge.
The three in the furnace stepped forward bravely, and joy was present in their resolve. Because they knew God was about to be seen by all. At the very least they knew HE was with them.
Imagine the joy that rose to the surface and shined in their faces as they stepped back out of that furnace knowing everyone present had witnessed the greatness of their God. Joy was present.
|Betsie is in the middle, Corrie on the left. |
Nollie, was also a sister, but was released early on from the concentration camp.
Betsie, the much loved sister of Corrie Ten Boom, carried a sparkling kind of joy inside her that even though her circumstances were all-wrong, she was all-right on the inside. She died in a concentration camp, her sister witnessed her passing, but for the rest of Corrie's life, she told the stories of joy-found in dark places --- forgiveness-given to the undeserving --- peace in the midst of war.
A dear friend of mine was held as a prisoner of war for many years. He was tortured and starved and faced many horrifying moments. Yet, he was not destroyed because he worked to keep his personal, internal (that place where no guard could reach) focus on the knowing that God was with him, He was not forgotten. His testimony is powerful. (God bless Captain Jerry Coffee and all those who have suffered wrongfully while serving our country.) Was joy with him in those dark cells? He says it was; not on the outside like a bubbling brook, but on the inside like an artesian well of promise.
Joy is available when Jesus is present. Evil can not destroy it, unless we choose to allow it to do so.
Joy is a choice.
Few of us will face days of dark prison cells and concentration camps. Those are places where heroes carry joy and hope ---- and the rest of us watch in awe, inspired. But if joy can walk into a lions den with Daniel, and joy can be the sparkle in a dying woman's eye, the smile on her lips at Ravensbruck concentration camp, then joy is an unstoppable force if we choose to let it live inside us.
Before Betsie died, she whispered to her sister Corrie, “There is no pit so deep, that He [God] is not deeper still.” Those words could only be spoken by a woman who knew what the deep pits looked like, and found “the joy of the Lord is my strength” there.
Joy is a choice.
Count it all joy... (James 1:2)
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Leaning toward Steve i said, “Goodness, it is scary.” He nodded in agreement. Then as i stepped up to the guard to be scanned, she said, “You are scared? Why are you scared?” Shocked that she had heard me, i replied, “No i'm not scared, i only spoke to my husband about something that is scary.” The female guard looked me in the eye and said, “i know, and yes it is.” She felt the same way i did, she understood.
We had been driving most of the day, headed north. Stopping to buy some groceries, we approached the entrance of a store just as a young woman stepped in front of me to get a cart before entering. She was not rude, no offense was taken. But it was her clothing that caught my attention and gave me pause. She was wearing a full hijab, with a niqab, (where a small slit allows only the eyes to show). I've grown accustomed to seeing them here and there, but usually they are in full black. Her's was different.
It's still hard to believe i live so far from my homeland. But, i do, it is real, and daily my Abba stretches me to know more of Him, His ways, His plans. I no longer allow myself the indulgence of seeing things with my own eyes only. There's just so much more to be seen, understood, and done. Looking with my eyes alone would only limit me from seeing the real reason i'm breathing. There's more, there's always more. And the more Abba wants for His kids is not purchased with coins, instead it's found in obedience to whatever He is saying in the moments of any day.
Finished with the guard's scans, assured we carried no weapons, she smiled warmly as we entered the store. The fully-robed lady walked in front of us, and i noticed how everyone stared at her. She did draw attention to herself, but even from behind i sensed she did not want to be noticed.
Some might think me silly, but another thing i have learned living in this country, is when in doubt----- it is time to pray. And honestly, i am in doubt so many times every day. Doubt of what someone is about to do, how the police are about to behave, where the crazy matatu drivers are going when they fly past us on the dirt side of the roadway, the doubt goes on and on.
I grew up where there was order, rules, and for the most part people followed those rules. If they didn't, they eventually ended up in jail. But that is not the case here. There are rules, yes, but they are viewed as suggestions not requirements, unless of course the random police officer decides to enforce them. All this to say, it is always wise to pray... always. So we spend much of our time praying. It feels completely normal to us now. The crazy swirl of piki drivers, noisy loudspeakers, guards with guns, a riot of colors, and languages from 120 different dialects all within this one wonderful country of Kenya, doubt prevails, so must prayers. For sure, i love this country and its people, but it keeps me ever on my toes, no scratch that, it keeps me on my knees.
So as we walked down the first aisle and i noticed her shrinking shoulders responding to the ever-watchful-eyes of everyone she met, i prayed.
I'm not trying to sound all holy and perfect when i say that i prayed. Please don't read it in that way. Instead, it was a prayer asking for protection, and an asking for her. I needed her to not do anything to harm anyone. But i could not ignore that she needed someone, anyone, please s-o-m-e-o-n-e pray for her.
If i believe my Abba Father is who He says He is (and i do), then more than anyone, i know the depth of her intense need for Him. Imagine it --- she does not know the One who made her, she knows nothing of His love for her, she eeks through her days dry on the inside because she has not one drop of living water flowing through her parched soul. It hurts to see her with those eyes.
But hey, why am i getting all prayerful and deep in the middle of the market ---- i'm there to buy onions, chicken, and yogurt right??
Still, i prayed, “Father God, you see her, you know her, help her please... and as for us, no harm is allowed to come near us in the Name of Jesus. I'm covered and cared for by the One who is above all things... no weapon formed against us will prosper... Father help her...”
As i said amen, she went straight and i turned right.
It was over ---- now, ..... where do they keep the creamer i like in my tea?...
Steve went one way, i went another. We Americans, we like to be efficient with our time. Our plan, we'd be in and out in less than 5 minutes.
But two minutes later as i headed towards the yogurt cooler, guess who was standing near the cheeses? Reaching for the yogurt, she spoke to me. She said, “Could i please speak to you?”
Within 2 seconds i had 10 solid emotions rush through me.
The afraid-woman should pretend i didn't hear her, ignore her, and walk away quickly.
But is that why i'm breathing...?
The defensive-woman should level her with a hard glance and ---- walk away.
But that's not who i am...
The unsure-woman would respond with trembling hands and her doubt would be smelled by all.
But the woman who knows who she belongs to and why she is breathing again today, knows, buying yogurt isn't what matters. People matter.
So i paused for a breath prayer (i'm not kidding about praying allllll the tiiiiiimmmmmme).
Looked at her and said, “What did you say?”
“Could i please speak to you?”
“Certainly.” Lord, fill this space.
And i prepared myself for what i suspected she might want to say to me. Had she heard my words at the entrance speaking of how “scary it was”... had she known i was speaking of her clothing and how it covered everything but her hands and eyes? Was she about to confront me?
Lord, fill this space...
I stepped a bit closer, so i could understand her timid voice.
Lord, fill this space between us...
And she said, “I am the oldest of 7 children. We live with my grandmother. My parents both died in a car accident in 2008, my grandmother has cared for us since that time. She is now very old and very sick. Caring for the family has fallen to me, and i need a job please, i will do whatever is needed. I can cook, clean, it's only that i need a job.”
Lord, help me help her...
I shared with her briefly that we already have a dear lady who cares for our home so well, so no job was available. But i pressed ahead quickly to say, “The only thing i can do for you is pray for you, that God will make a way for a good job to come.”
By now, she was looking me in the eyes, and giving me the unspoken permission to look into her eyes. Much is said when eyes meet.
She responded and said, “Please do pray for me, since your God is my God, and he will hear your prayers.”
Lord, give me your words, your know what she really needs...
Ever so carefully, as gently as is ever possible, I said, “Thank you for letting me pray for you, but you must know, my God is Jehovah. And by the way you are dressed, shall i guess that your god is allah?” She nodded. “But still, may i pray to my God for you?”
And the look in her eyes...
if only words could match the depth...she knew she needed more than just a job... she knew...
She looked around cautiously and said, “Yes, please, perhaps He will hear you and help me.”
I asked her name, she softly gave it. I called her by name and said, “For sure my God will hear a prayer concerning you, for whether you know Him or not, He knows you and He loves you. So i will pray for you by name as i go, but may i pray for you right now so you can hear what i will ask on your behalf.”
And she visibly shrank.
Her eyes darted about as if enemies lurked in bushes near by (as if we weren't in the freezer section).
She said, “You mean here, you are asking to pray here?”
“Yes, you see my God is with me wherever i am. He never leaves me, He is everywhere and He always cares.”
Again... those eyes.
When all you can see of a person is their eyes, those eyes must be carefully looked into. There is no tilt of the lips that can be assessed, no shrugging of the shoulders can be seen, and no smirking face can be detected. Only the eyes can speak when words are measured and all else is hidden.
I called her by name again and said, “I will pray with my eyes open, and even looking at you, no one will know we are praying, only you and i and the God who is a Father.”
Her eyes watered, she shifted her face-cover, then ever-so-softly said, “p-l-e-a-s-e”.
And so in the frozen food section of a public market, i carried her name to the One who loves her. No veil can stop His great love-longing for her soul. We prayed, i spoke, she remained silent, and there was kindness in her trapped brown eyes.
Who was watching her? Was anyone watching her? Why was she so afraid? Yet, she had the courage to allow me to pray for her in public.
Fear. It is the enemy. Fear drives people to do horrendous things to other people all because they are afraid. They might think they are killing for other reasons, but i've grown to understand, even the terrorists are killing because of fear. They are afraid of their gods disapproval, they are afraid of what their comrads might think of them if they do not, they are afraid of being killed themselves. Two months ago we sat and talked long with two young men who grew up muslim, but converted to Christianity during their early twenties. Now they run for their lives as even their own family members search for them, to kill them, all in reverence to their god. These young men explained to us how you are trapped in that religion, and if you try and break free from it, you will suffer. One of them had been persecuted so harshly for his Christian beliefs, that when he refused to renounce Jesus, he was pushed from a four story high window. His stomach burst on impact, spilling his stomach and intestines out onto the ground. His last words to his attackers were, “You can not kill me even if you push me, Jesus will save me, or He will take me home, but you, you are not able to end me.” They pushed. He fell. He burst open. He lived. Those who pushed him... two have died since that time, the third is losing his mind and hides in his home, to afraid to be seen. Why? Because he saw Jesus save the life of the one he pushed.
Jehovah is the One true God.
The lady in the market, who allowed me to pray for her, she too knows there is something more. She is trapped behind the veil... she carries an aching soul inside. A soul that Jehovah l-o-v-e-s.
My life rarely has space to read what social media conveys. I miss most of the whirl; the words, the rants, the trending fads, the accusations and declarations.
Still i know that often times harsh lines are drawn by some who hate this group or criticize that group.
But as for me, my Abba reminded me as i walked out of the market that day, “Don't be afraid, don't let the outside cause you to miss the inside that I see. Just be where I guide you to be, and speak what I guide you to say, and I WILL DO THE REST.”
We are not in this world to win. We are not here to argue a point and come out on top. We are not here to dominate and rule over others. We are not here to be afraid.
If we call Abba our Father ----- we are here to love Him and love others... and maybe we will grow in our ability to live out the truth that love actually covers over a multitude of sins --- love covers all --- love drives out fear ---- LOVE WINS.
---- when you see the veil covering the face ---- pray for the soul it is trying to hide ----