Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Her story was there for all to see. She held her story in her arms.
With a soundly tenderized heart, I watched this girl-child love the girl-child she'd given birth to and love dripped from every move she made.
And I disliked this world all the more.
She lives on the side of a mountain in Africa. She buys her baby's clothes from an open air market, the kind that sells piles of used clothing from other parts of the world for cheap prices in rural places. Huge bundles find their way to Mombasa on ships. Merchants buy the bundles and carry them to every corner of Kenya where local ladies buy the large bags of clothes. It's their livelihood. They'll wash and re-fold the clothing and display it to sell on market-day. (Display means – they lay them on plastic sheets on the ground.) It's the “mall” in rural Africa.
For the young momma I watched ---- it's the only “mall” she's ever seen. She can imagine no other.
Her darling girl wears a frilly dress with thick grey leggings. The dress, a perfect fit. The leggings are far to large. Her bib is an echo from my own children's childhood. Chuck E. Cheese is printed across it with a comical mouse grinning. Instantly I remembered birthday parties where that same mouse danced on a stage and pizza filled the plates. It's a world away from this mountain-side in this rural church where girls gather.
I ask myself many times ------- what am I doing here?
“Surely they need someone with something more than me.”
It's a plaguing thought that comes when the need is so big and my skin feels too small.
But I have learned............
I have learned that my skin is not the part that matters. What a relief.
The ONE who brings us to the side of the mountain -------- HE IS THE ONE who can stand up to the need that I shrink under.
Abba knows what to do.
And I think of another young girl who has given birth to a little girl in a place far from this mountain. She too found herself with child.
She too faced the choice.
“Do I hide? Do I 'get rid of' the little one growing inside me? Do I listen to the pressures of others?” But she knew, both girls knew, “One reason this child grows inside me is because I listened to the pressures of a boy-man. He's long gone now. But I remain with a child growing inside. What am I to do?”
The story's as old as dirt itself. The momma is left to care for a child even if the “contributor “runs away.
And both girls I speak of asked the One who still saw them for help. HE still looked at them for ----- who they are ----- not for what they'd done ------ and He guided them in ways the world would not have. Both girls now hold a girl-child and love gushes between child-mother and baby girl.
And I feel the need to get on my knees.
This writing is not about pro-choice or pro-life (although I always cheer for life). But I have had to face horrific sights that have sent me to my knees and no judgement can survive in those moments. I've looked into the eyes of girls who have frantically worked to destroy the baby inside them or end it the moment it was born, because she knew the horrors it would face if she tried to keep it. I've held the girl who felt mercy was more important than life. Some of them weep. Some are like stones. The world is a cruel place. No judging is allowed.
The girl-child momma looked at her baby girl with such deep-love. She had made her choice to deliver a baby on the side of a muddy mountain and hold love in her arms for as long as she could. Her girlfriends flocked around her; as if the baby-doll they should have been able to hold as little girls was instead a breathing-baby in their half-grown arms and they were thrilled to hold something that would not hurt them. No judging is allowed.
We have come to this church to meet with over 250 girls who do not have enough money to buy what they need for their “monthlies” (as it is called here). Their parents struggle on this mountain-side to provide school fees, so providing even a few shillings more for private needs is something the girls are left to figure out for themselves. For some parents it is neglect. But for many, it's a reality of harsh life. When the choice is either food on the plate or pads for the month ------- food wins, every time. And so, as if out of a horror movie, the enemy of God takes advantage of the need. He places a dark plan in the ugly hearts of lusty old men. The crusty goats would provide a meager amount of money to any girl who would “give” herself to him. She could then go buy her needed pads, he would satiate his lusts, and he'd sit back and wait until the next young girl rapped at his gate.
Then it happened. A group of Kenyan ladies on that same mountainside met and grew courageous together.
They knew what was happening.
They knew why so many girls were getting pregnant at 12, 13, 14, and 15 years of age.
And they prayed for God to help them help the girls.
Prayers led to conversations. We were asked to pray. We prayed.
Sleepless nights overwhelmed us ------ we prayed through the dark hours.
God was clear. “Ask others to help.”
The air was as thick the morning we wrote our hearts out in an email and asked for H-E-L-P from friends back home. We could feel the weight like cement blocks on our chests.
Because the enemy of our Father knew what we were asking for and he knew it would mess up his dark plans for destruction on the mountain-side.
But we asked.
And then it came rolling in ------ the support to buy pads and undergarments for the girls came.
Generous hearts responded.
When we prayed with gratitude and asked God for guidance, He sent us to mentors for their thoughts. Wholeheartedly, they confirmed our thoughts, we should use the money given to carry a whole generation of girls in this community through the tender years of private needs ------- and enable these girls to get their education, grow up, become influential ladies someday, and then they, the young girls all grown, could become the mentors for the next generations. It would enable these wounded girls to become warrior ladies who KNEW the need and could deliver the final blows to the lusty-users on the mountain-side. And the plan was set in place by the One who heard their cries for help.
It's why we go to the mountain-side. The Kenyan ladies mentor these dear girls week after week and month after month. When we are here, we join in and encourage them all. It's beautiful. Really beautiful. Kenyan ladies helping Kenyan girls rise above what would have smothered their future.
Sunday I shared Psalm 25 with these precious girls. The church was packed, but the girls sat so still. They listened to every word given them. Their numbers have grown. They're calmer than they were 2 years ago when this all began. They smile more. They are being fed in ways life on the mountain would have left them starved and dying. 5 Kenyan mommas allow us to come alongside them as they grow up a new generation of girls. On Sunday I was allowed to offer them Jesus-in-their-heart. As their hands were filled with what they needed, their hearts were filled with the Answer.
So many wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior. They raised their hands and prayed aloud. And I know, the Kenyan mommas leading this group will disciple them week after week in the ways of Christ. We didn't count how many prayed ------ but we know that the One who loves them dearly held the number to His great heart and smiled. They are saved. They are being rescued. He knows the plans He has for them.
The girl-child holding her girl-child -------- I got to talk with her that day. She could speak no English. That means she has been unable to go to school as much as she needed. Monthlies keep girls out of school when they have no pad to stop the flow. She is/was one of the “casualties” of the mountain. She is the living proof of what had been happening.
A friend had recently invited her to come to the church to meet the ladies who are helping the girls.
That friend helped translate for me. It was the young momma's first time to come to the gathering and she was so happy to be received by the group and helped by the Kenyan-momma-mentors. No judging allowed.
It's just such a beautiful picture of the faithful way God moves in an unfaithful world.
He never gives up.
He does not turn away when we fall down.
He is ever ready to respond to the one who says, “Help me Lord”. Psalm 91:15
He is the One who “rides across the Heaven's to help us”. Deuteronomy 33:26
She left the church with more lines added to her story. Good lines. Love lines.
She carried a baby-girl in her arms when she arrived that day.
She left with her baby-girl in her arms, supplies for her monthlies in her hands, and Jesus in her heart.
And Love's arrival on the side of that muddy mountain could not be stopped.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
When something happens in our lives, or something is about to happen........
When we step into the places of meta-cognition, and actually slow down enough to think about what we're thinking about...........
When someone says something to us or sometimes even worse, when they should have, but they didn't...........
At almost every juncture of human interaction, it can happen in the blink of an eye.
We form a view, we develop an idea of what we think they meant by what they said or did. We adopt an internal view that can compel our response, or we may stay silent and keep it to ourselves. They too are forming their own view of the situation. Hopefully both views are positive. We can hope the heart and mind of both individuals is upright and well-intentioned. If so, it's the best chance the interaction will land in good places. But here's the craziness of human interactions ------- even when both participating parties are good hearted and well-meaning -------- so often something that should have glided through smoothly, inadvertently turns sideways, a clog-up forms, and one or both people can walk away a bit quirked on the inside.
Good grief, it happens quicker than lightening. And always the thunder boom comes afterwards, sometimes in the far distance, sometimes close enough to rattle a heart.
The thunder-moment comes when we realize the odds have worked out against us.
It's terribly important we realize, that when lightening strikes, it always causes damage! Every-time. When we hear the thunder roll, it is telling us that somewhere, something just got whammed with upwards of one billion volts.
If the thunder roll is far away, we know the impact was miles away. But when the thunder rumbles our own chest, we know the volts did damage up-close.
Lightening is much more clear than human interactions.
Here's the skinny of it. When we have a conversation, whether through verbal words or body language, we must remember -------- two thought-clouds are coming near one another ------- and if they collide, emotional-lightening will be produced. Emotional-thunder lets us know damage occurred. For some people the lightening's damage shows up quickly (the sanguine and choleric), but for some the damage that occurred will show up in more distant thunder (phlegmatic and melancholy). But, the impact happened, the damage is there and the wise among us are cautious on the front side and quick to care in the aftermath.
Hang in here with me for the real dilly of it. (As if lightening and thunder isn't big enough........)
When communicating with one another, there is usually something of importance to convey. Whether it's the list of items needed at the market, the information needed to complete a task, or the way we feel concerning a previous interaction, what we need to hear from another needs to be heard in right ways. What they need to convey needs to be said in right ways.
And right there at the birth of the conveyance ----- we can see four ways it can go.
Two are positive: it was said accurately and it was heard accurately.
Two are negative: it was said wrongly and it was heard wrongly.
Then consider the crazy that comes when perhaps it was said right, but heard wrong..................
Add in the timing, tone, facial expressions of the speaker ------- and then timing, mood, and previous interactions of the day for the listener, and you have more levels of multiple options for negative or positive understanding.
Bottom-line reality is -------- there is one right way to communicate and one right way to hear ------ and if either of these is “off” then, clouds come close and collision is likely.
Some might want to click delete now. I totally get that. The thinking that says, “Good grief it's just too hard and i'm already tired from all life's other pressures. There's no way I can win. Why even try?”
But oh let's reign in that runaway horse and remind it of who is in the saddle.
The phrase, “There's no way I can win”, is a BIG reveal and we must keep it exposed and defeated.
Winning isn't wonderful when alone is attached to it.
And if someone else had to endure the emotional-lightening of about a billion volts, they're not going to want to keep standing close to the one who keeps delivering the impact.
Winning matters in war and the Olympics. One wins, all others lose.
Winning in relational interactions can only be accomplished with two or more winners. No losers are allowed on the field.
Every divorce i've ever heard of meant that one had demanded they had to “win” OR that one was exhausted from being forced to lose. That's when marriage looks more like war than love.
And even if the “one” thinks they've finally found a way to win, in the end, there's so much rumbling thunder in the skies, the damage done will take years to repair if reparation is even possible. Sometimes “winning” is the worst thing that can happen.
Winning and losing is the wrong goal in relationship. It's right for a world-war ------ but wrong in a home.
And communication is the key that turns the lock one way or the other. It will either unlock what had been locked up tight, or it will lock up what had previously been open.
Communication. Is. So. Important.
In 1967, Dr. Albert Mehrabian and Susan Ferris conducted 2 studies of 30 females trying to determine the correlation between verbal and non-verbal communication. They wanted to determine which weighs in heavier? Which carries less impact? The results of their study have been widely shared and wrongly communicated.
A study on communication being w-r-o-n-g-l-y communicated. Gotta grin, don't we?
He's famous (much to his chagrin) for the 7-38-55 theory. Broken down the study implied 93% of communication is non-verbal. His theory proposed the breakdown as: 7% being verbal, 38% vocal (tone), and 55% visual (expression).
But wait. All this could come from two studies with 30 females?
And yet, can we remove the numbers and percentages and look at the realities they expose.
We might walk away with gold in hand.
How someone says what they say is much more impactful than the actual words they use. Don't we already know this?
I can say, “I love you”, with a hawk look in my eye ------- and it can become a scary string of words.
Or I can say, “I love you” with gentle eyes, leaning forward, arms uncrossed and it becomes a safe, kind string of words. Add to the words the prior actions that validate the words and the communication can land without complications. As long as the “runway” is clear of debris. Because the receiver either has or does not have the ability to “hear” and believe.
No matter how expertly a pilot is able to land the plane, if the runway has been bombed and boulders cover it ------- the plane can not land.
So ------ communication requires both the giver and the receiver to allow goodness and kindness and what is upright to land between them.
What is upright will bring a rightness to the space between them ----- no voltage ------ no winners or losers. Just both parties bringing the desire for good to fill the space.
It's not easy.
It's actually immensely difficult.
Add in the reality that there is an enemy that wants healthy relationships to fail. That enemy wants to isolate, and separate, and make people feel alone.
So ------ what am I driving at?
Relationships are pre-determined to struggle. There are at least a billion ways it can go wrong ---- as each bolt of lightening can deliver that many volts ------ so each string of words can bring lethal damage if not carefully handled.
Therefore ----- to know the seriousness of each communication ---- to “think about how we think” about communication ---- to begin the work of crafting our words, gestures, facial expressions, and actions as if we're intentionally painting our own private Sistine Chapel. Every stroke of Michelangelo's brush was intentional. He never once could allow a messy, careless slinging of paint.
Intentionality............. so what is created is beautiful.
Intentionality.............because what could be lost would cause all to lose.
Intentionality.............in word, gesture, facial expression, action, and motive.
Intentionality.............since all the world is aching to see goodness actually win.
Intentional .............. to remember that everyone who catches a glimpse of the-authentic-beautiful might be willing to try and carefully put paint to brush on their own relationship-canvas.
For this to actually happen we must lean away from the wild-card-ways and careless-words flung around in this limping world. And remember ------- the One who created us knows the best way through the landmine of communication in relationships. He said, “Be kind. Be gentle. Be patient. Consider the interest of others. Love one another.” It's sprinkled all in God's Holy Words.
And isn't Jesus the ultimate example of intentional living. Wow! 30 years of waiting.........3 years of ministry........... knowing His death and resurrection would be needed. He was, is, and will always be the way. The truth.
Considering the reality that there are about a billion ways communication can fall short ------- it compels me all the more to hold tight to His robe, walk at His pace, do what He says, and “speak” carefully (using words when needed).
We must face the reality ----- that the odds are against us ----- but there is ONE who is forever, faithfully for us.
Run your race, speak carefully, hold the Robe.
Imagine ----- this is what flooded through my heart before my feet touched the floor this morning.
No wonder I grab coffee and His word before the sun slides over the horizon. :)
Monday, March 11, 2019
Dwelling in Your shelter, resting in Your shadow.
Is it real? Is it possible? Or are those just words printed on ancient pages spoken long ago by a clever king?
“He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
When the hard days roll 'round, we've got to have something we hold on to.
So i say to myself, ---- “donna, where are you dwelling?”
It's a simple, hugely important question. Where are you dwelling ? Mentally?
I've learned that where i'm dwelling physically doesn't matter nearly as much as where i'm dwelling mentally......... spiritually.........emotionally.
Took me years to get that piece settled in my bones.
Truth is, where i'm dwelling physically can even end up being a distraction from where I need to be dwelling mentally.
Remove all the wonderfulness of being in a comfortable place. Go through the personal “fire” of letting go of all that you thought mattered so much. Lay down the house, the stuff, the familiar wonderfulness of all you've nested up around you -------- lay it all down and go to an uncomfortable, unfamiliar place and if we let Him ----- He will show us Himself in ways we might never have seen Him in that nest of comfortable.
That laying down can happen in about a million different ways. No one way is more powerful or important than the other. What's important is that we allow it to come to us.
Look around you and you'll find so many souls who have refused to lay down their life.
They will not consider it ----- because maybe it makes absolutely no sense to them. That's only because they haven't yet let themselves feel the touch of His hand or heard His still small voice saying, “Come away with me.”
It's ok. It's not that they are bad or even selfish. It's mostly that they don't know how to get from where they are to the place He can take them. It's that they don't know how and they haven't been brought to the place where they “let go” and “let Him” do what only He can do.
And maybe they're wildly afraid of even considering it.
I wasted so many years pointing my fingers at others. If you're one of those dear souls I pointed at ---- you likely never knew it ---- I was a closet pointer. Pointing at others with a criticalness that only reflected my own ugly heart of frustration towards myself. I knew I couldn't get from where I was “dwelling” to where I wanted to be -------- so I pointed at others who weren't there yet either.
What an exhausting, ugly way of half-living.
Then the good One began reworking me from the inside out. He began pulling my “nest” apart long before He moved me out of the home where I perched. Abba began shifting my thoughts. I asked Him to. I profoundly remember sitting on my front porch with a blanket wrapped around me on a cold winter morning and saying, “Fix me Lord. I'm not who you call me to be, i'm not who I want to be. I'm not who my family needs me to be, i'm wasting time on lesser things, when surely You had more in mind.” Nothing actually happened in that moment, but something began to move. I kept knocking and asking for help from Him.
I had to come to the end of myself. My ways.
I was “dwelling” in places that were consuming me.
Imagine that. We people can live in a type of symbiotic existence with our mental/emotional nests of comfort. It supplies us with a place to lay our thoughts ------ while we provide it (un-alive as it is) with our devoted presence.
My mental, emotional, and physical energies were focused on levels of living that spoke more of “this world” than they did of “the shelter of the Most High”.
There are three types of souls reading this.
Those who get it, because the same Daddy-God has opened their eyes to it.
Those who have no idea what i'm talking about and probably haven't even read this far.
And those who are aching over the realization that they no longer want to remain in the mental/emotional/physical nest they've worked so hard to create around them.
The first group ---- i'm hugging you on your good (albeit hard) journey.
The second group ---- i'm literally praying for you as I pen these words ---- you've got a storm coming that will scoot you towards the next group. I pray you make it all the way to the the first group.
The third group ----- oh don't feel alone in the Holy shift. If you'll hang in there for the climb, you're about to get to step into places you never imagined possible. Places of freedom (and loss), where you can breathe deeply and lay many things down. A place where you understand more, have less confusion, where you'll see and you'll care, you'll no longer judge and compare. But it's not an easy climb. Moving is always hard. Always.
“The one who dwells in the shelter of the most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”--- eat every morsel of those words.
We simply can not dwell in God's shelter and remain in our own place. We've got to be willing to let Him move us w-h-e-r-e-v-e-r He wants to.
Over and over again I hear people say things like, “Oh I love God with all my heart ---- but I could never go.............. and do...............” and I get it. Who chooses to free-fall into the unknown? I'd guess a very small percentage of people would choose it. But, many of us just knew we couldn't live without it.
----- we are living a half-faith-life if we can say with one breath, “I love the Lord with all my heart” ----- and then insist on having it our (human-self) way. The two pieces can never fit side-by-side. The two pieces can exist in the same life ------- but they are not connected. It produces a divided way of living.
That's the painful reality.
It's what so many people who have stepped away from the church say they have seen. Seeing the church say one thing ----- but living another thing. And oh God help us all ----- haven't we Christians done it so poorly. I have. But may it not be so now.
If I want to “dwell in the shelter of the most High”, I must not insist on living in another shelter (one that i've created and one i can manage). My emotional, mental, spiritual dwelling must be in the place He is found.
And oh the goodness that when ---- I move to that shelter ------ I can breathe “in the shadow of the Almighty”.
Is this making sense?
I'm not talking about the physical place we lay our heads down and call our home.
I'm talking about the mental place we let our thoughts lay down in.
We can live in a palace and our mental/emotional thoughts dwell in the gutter. Likewise, we can live in a dirt-floor-room and our mental/emotional thoughts dwell in a sanctuary.
We people too often think that if a person is living in a fine mansion, then they are “doing well”. But that's only the physical appearance of things. They might actually be the “poor” that are in need of the most. The other side of that coin tries to tell us the person living in a hut with no modern luxuries is “in need”. But again, that's only the physical appearance of things. They might actually be “dwelling in the shelter of the most High”. It all depends on where their heart and mind are centered.
Jesus never owned a home on this earth ------ and yet He was and is the King. His mind was centered solely on the Father. Jesus dwelled in the shelter of the Most High.
God speaks this soundly to my soul.
I've had to learn it over and over again.
I was willing to care for the one without food or water or shelter ---- because I could easily “see” their “need”.
But I was brutally blind to the one living in opulent wealth who was grievously poor in heart. So wrong donna.
Last Sunday we went up on the side of a mountain in Kenya to speak at a remote church. The old me would have been troubled over their obvious “needs”. It's hard work to resist that old-self. But God let me see something precious --- it was a reminder again.
There was a beautiful little girl running around with an old, worn baby-doll held tightly to her back. It was ragged and dirty. She held it to her back as if she was a Kenyan-momma. I watched her for so long. She was happy. Bouncing about with a worn doll on her back, wearing a torn dress, and I thought to myself of the challenges I knew she would have to face in the years ahead living on this mountainside.
My thoughts wanted to “dwell” in the wrong places ----- places that were not “in the shelter of the most High”. My mind began its old way of thinking. “donna, the least you can do is buy this precious little girl a new doll. You need to send one back up this mountain to her. She needs a new dress too........ and then............”
But i've learned .....
So I grabbed those thoughts and held them up to the One who adores her most.
And He whispered so sweetly to my heart, “She is thrilled with her tattered baby-doll. Someone loved her enough to give her a doll they were able to provide for her. Look at her eyes. They sparkle. She has no idea you are watching her. I'm letting you SEE her. Stop looking with wrong eyes. If you try and make 'things' better, according to your standards ------- then you will silently convey that how she is living is not good enough and how her hard-working parents have provided for her is not sufficient. And you'll teach her to define poverty wrongly. Truth is, she sparkles. She is not actually poor in My eyes. Remember how many other children you've seen surrounded by too many dolls and things of that sort who were not sparkling at all. They were pouting over wanting even more. See with My eyes donna, those who have so much are so often the poor. This little darling will have needs all her life, and you have your part in helping her, but it has nothing to do with the ragged, torn doll she happily carries on her back. Do the part I, God, call you to do. Stop letting your thoughts 'dwell' in the wrong places ---- 'Dwell in the shelter where I am, rest in My shadow there.' Follow MY lead. I will guide you. You can not do My work ---- your way. It won't work. But dwell close to Me and I will give you rest as you do My work My way.”
The only way to live from the place of His shelter, and rest in the place of peace found in His shadow ------------ is to turn my eyes always to what He says matters most to Him.
The world will not understand it. The world will even be critical of it. But the One who is our Shelter will let us rest in His shadow ----------- even as we put our hands to the work needed in this broken world again and again and again.
But this world Lord........ in this world.......
When babies are being slaughtered inside the womb --------- we must stay focused on the One who always reaches for them.
When babies are rejected out of the womb (abortion) and lay crying in their struggle to live (surviving abortion)-------- I must stay focused on the One who hears their cry and gathers them up in His good arms.
When 'little'-power-hungry-people pass laws that feed a fallen world ----- I must not focus on them (the people or the laws), I must focus on the One who sees it all and will deal with those who are corrupt.
When a “preacher” says things that are NOT in God's Word ----- I must stay steady in saying what is in line with God's heart (and His Word).
When eyes are diverted and focused on lesser things ---- (I must remember my own tendency to do the same) ------ and choose carefully to see with His eyes what my distracted-eyes will miss.
When criticisms and/or accusations come------ I must remember ----- I have a Defender who says, “Get in My shadow daughter, i'll handle this MY WAY.”
“The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
I've always loved the image of an older person walking with a young toddler. Neither of them are rushing. The former has learned the value of slowing down. The latter has not yet learned how to go quickly.
Let yourself picture it. They're both looking down, they each have a feebleness to their gait. When one looks at the other, they each smile. They neither really focus on where they are going, but they both are just enjoying not being alone. Melts me as I picture it.
Their pace is perfectly matched yet from two different perspectives. And in their slow walk together the young one has a chance to learn. The elder one feels the gift of being needed.They bring much to each other. They laugh and look and bend down low to see something that would have been missed if either had been in a hurry.
It's been just such a walk that i've experienced. Left alone, I would have only seen a troublesome pebble. But walking beside the One who was willing to keep a slower pace, Holy moments have shown up and i've learned.... I can better see the diamond in the rough.... i've learned.
It's not that i've been trying to become holy. Just as the toddler walking with the elder-one is not trying to become an old sage. Nor is the elder trying to become young again like the toddler. It's simply that by spending time together on an unhurried path, they will see and learn things they would have missed if they'd been walking alone.
Most all my life, regardless of my age, i've felt like a “toddler”. It's not that I feel perpetually 2 years old, it's only that I embrace the sense of “there's so much I don't know, there's so much still to learn”. Somehow my heart and mind have a propensity to look for the wiser, older, kinder, stronger, slower paced, sparkling “teachers”. Some might be bored senseless over it, but there's nothing more entertaining or intriguing than wise words and timeless stories told by someone who has lived well and out lasted life's storms. To say it's fascinating is an understatement.
In retrospect, there are also few conversations sadder than those with an old person who has not lived well, not learned much, and left a trail of void in their wake. So to be clear, not all older people can be counted as wise. The overflow of their life will determine how much they should be heard. Another way to say it is, look at the result of their choices in life before listening to their stories and trying to learn from their example. Perhaps that seems obvious, but, it's worth clarifying. Because there are too many people who think they earn a badge simply because they've lived several decades. And we're surrounded by a world of young people who have been wounded by older people who were not good to them. Sadly, there are those images in their minds of being the toddler walking beside the older person being drug along in rushed, harsh ways ------ there were no gentle moments of kind-paced-living. Those are some of the most wounded adults around us. When an older person is harsh with a child, it breaks much.
That being said ------- when we find a wonderful old soul who has lived well, we are wise to scoot up our chairs and listen close. Wisdom compels us to walk at their pace for as long as they will let us.
I'm thinking it's part of the Maker's plan. After all, He is the One who decided we would be born as babies and grow towards being old. He could have chosen the opposite. We could have been born wrinkly and old only to progress towards youth. Certainly if that had been the course of life, we would appreciate the health and energy of youth much more. But why is it that all too often we don't embrace the pace and wisdom of the wise elderly souls among us? Do we? Perhaps you do. I hope so. Still, it's fair to say, that all too often they seem to be swept to the side, and viewed through rushed lenses and can't-you-go-faster sort of ways.
Did you catch that last sentence? Too often we view the elderly through “rushed lenses”. The very mannerisms that wound a toddler will also wound the older souls.
Sitting in the airport is one of the best places to “see” things a bit more clearly. Perhaps it can happen because we don't actually know the people we're watching. If we'll try, we have a chance to see much about them without knowing any of the details of their life. The way they interact, the look on their faces, the way they sit. And i've learned something in my non-judgmental observations. It's the toddlers and the elderly that are the-most-beautiful-people. Certainly, there are many kind-souls found among the people in between the young and the old. But casual observations have repeatedly conveyed to me ----- the one's who know they have no control over their setting, are the one's who are the gentlest and kindest. The toddler being held in her daddy's arms is not rushing or worried, she's holding her stuffed animal and looking at the passing faces. She's literally looking to see if anyone sees her. When she notices my smiling eyes are on her, she smiles the-most-peace-filled-response. Her good daddy didn't know his girl was scattering gifts as they rushed to their gate. I needed her precious smile. She gave it with perfection.
Just after them came two old people in wheelchairs being pushed along by airport attendants. It was a him and her duo with flowing robes and a red dot painted on their foreheads. I instantly knew they believed differently than me in their souls, but still I was watching for something. They were quiet in their wheelchair procession. Again, just like the little girl being carried by here daddy, these two were also being cared for by others. They didn't have to rush or worry ----- someone else was doing the work for them. That's a major factor not to be overlooked. Still, as their loaded down wheelchairs passed in front of my gate, the lady turned her kind face in my direction and gave me a smile that was a faint whisper of my sweet grandmother's sparkle. My responding smile brought a broad smile across her aged skin and right there ---- in the wild rush of people ---- she and I felt the touch of “goodness”.
And nothing that happened the rest of that day was as beautiful as those two “touches”.
If I had looked for a smile from the 40 something year old lady sitting across from me, I would possibly still be waiting. Oh i'm not slamming her. It's just that, somehow too many of us get off the good course in the years between learning-to-walk and no-longer-able-to. We lose something so valuable.
Maybe it's only me...... maybe i'm the only one who notices all that I seem to inherently overlook. If so, then this writing is only of value in that now you all know ---- i'm finally seeing what you've known all along.
But the sharing of it can still be of value I hope. Because as I walk down the street in most any place, it's always the little and the old that seem to know the most. There are no words exchanged usually, only a nod, a smile, and a kindness given. The world misses it so often. I've missed it for too long.
When lonely is stalking about, it'll be the little carefree toddler (who is being cared for by loving parents) who, without a word, reaches clear through the wall of lonely and shifts things.
When worry is breathing down a tired backbone, it'll be the elderly soul (who has lived well and passed through much) who, without even an ounce of power, can give a short string of solid-rock words that strengthen marrow and broaden shoulders. Sometimes they can do it with just a nod and a knowing look. It's an amazing gift from “the One who rides across the heavens to help us, across the skies in majestic splendor”. (Deut. 33:26) And catch this --- whether they know He is using them or not --- HE still will. (If God could make a donkey talk.......... He can flow through anyone.)
Then I sit in the quiet and ponder --- studying it --- as if i'm preparing for a final exam not on my calendar. And i see something tucked inside of value to my soul.
It's a whispering from the Good One. He will speak to His children who are still enough to remember who HE is and all that they are not.
It comes like a blanket on a cold windy day. As He lays it on my shivering shoulders, He whispers to my heart ------
The ones who are carried well, respond well.
It's the ones willing to be carried well that are willing to respond well.
It's the ones who let Me, God, carry them, that will always be able to respond well.
It's the ones who know they can not do 'it', the one's who know they need My help, the one's who rely on me to carry them ----- they are the one's who are able to respond well.
They show up, they hold on, they sit where I tell them to and trust Me to get them to the right places --- they rest in My shadow, tucked under My wing ----- they have eyes to see and a smile to give because they know they are carried by the One who knows the way.” (Psalm 91:1&4)
Oh good Lord.
It's so very true.
You are ever willing to carry me as if i'm a toddler in your good-Daddy arms. You will carry me the full distance, I need only to stop squirming and worrying and fretting. Too often i've forced you to sit me down in my unruly lack of trust or refusal to let you h-o-l-d m-e. Oh God i'm seeing. I'm learning, The picture of the smiling toddler in her good-daddy's arms IS the picture You desire for You and me. Always.
You know the way.
And I can look around at all that we pass ---- giving to others a spark of the goodness that comes from being held by You.
And the elderly ones being pushed along in the wheelchairs, glowing over the knowing that others have the work of getting them to their gates ----- that's suppose to be “us” too isn't it Lord?
You are willing to let me rest while your walk with me through the hills and valleys of this life. You will do the work, I only need to remain in the seat you give me. I'm not doing “nothing”, but i'm not doing it all. You are. I can rest in Your presence. I can not rest apart from it. It's the lovely picture of “Be still and know that I AM GOD.” (Psalm 46:10)
Whether I like the chair where you've placed me or not is where so often the s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e begins.
As if I know something more than you do.
The toddler doesn't question --- she's not asking her daddy if he's sure he knows what he's doing. She actually won't even notice if he messes up. She just rides along in his arms.
Forgive me for being a squirming one.
To trust that You will carry me is either a truth in my life or not ----- and I need to quit faking it if it is not. Likewise, I need to rest in it if it is the Truth. I cause so many problems with my squirming thoughts.
We grown-up kids seem to think we are able to do something of value.
But if we're not being carried by the Good-Daddy-God ----- we're destined to mess up whatever we think we can do. Mess up in the sense of ---- it'll only be base-line acceptable at best. But it won't be touched by the Holy One who will bring the excellence – the goodness – the i-never-imagined-that-was-possible essence to whatever we're putting hand to.
It'll be sufficient, maybe, but it won't be what it could have been.
The toddler's smile went to a secret place in my soul, as did the elderly ladies.
They trusted that they were being c-a-r-r-i-e-d, they were not worried over the details, they were able to see and do much from their cared-for-perch.
Oh Father ---- whether i'm cooking dinner, teaching a class, praying on my knees or scrubbing something clean ----- no matter what i'm putting my hands to ------ please Lord ----- help me to remember this lesson from you ------- You are willing to carry me, You are willing to carry us all ---- and You know the way, You know the best way, we need only to be still in your arms and let the world around us see in our eyes ------- and receive in our smile ------ we are held and YOU ARE GOOD....... always.......
Friday, October 26, 2018
It's 16 days before we board a flight with our last remaining things and fly back home to America. This flight is profoundly different that all other flights before it. This time ------ we're going home.
Going home doesn't mean we stop working. It doesn't mean we're finished. Retirement isn't a word in our personal vocabulary. So what does it mean?
It means our borders are expanding in a new direction. One that will let us be present for family and friends as well as be more available for those needing renewal and rebooting. We're so thankful to know we already have 3 missionary couples lined up for soul-care beginning in December. Makes my heart gush.
5 ½ years ago my eyes could not stop leaking......... moving to the mission field was no small thing. It opened flood gates of tears.
Now 5 ½ years later my heart is gushing over the fullness of all that has taken place and all that is still to come. I know much is ahead. How can I be so sure? Because I also know that what has happened these last few years did not come as a result of me. It came from the One who is ever able; the One who knows what is needed and can deliver with perfection. Without a doubt ---- HE still knows the way forward and there's peace that He is writing the script.
I'm doing the steady work of processing it all out carefully. That's my part. I'm not trying to lean into the GOD-part. His part is huge.
Mine is simply this: Pray, listen, remember,
prepare, focus, respond,
It's my heart's desire (and my job under Him) to encourage. This I know. Oh what peace comes in just knowing.
Encourage the dear Kenyan's through teaching truth and fostering healthy upward growth.
Encourage girls who aren't quite sure why they were born and what the world says to them.
Encourage ladies who have been wounded but they still want to love others and live loved.
Encourage couples who are brave enough to say “Yes” to each other and the path of being His servants in hard places.
Encourage parents to help their children grow-up-in-God, because they will face a hard world on their own someday.
Encourage through writing..... for those who want it on pages.
My heart is gushing for sure. It's intimidating, but in a good way. Years ago it would have doubled me over and sent me to a corner. But oh, i've been taught so much in the midst of flames that burn off what's fluffy and soft. There's more to learn (there'll always be more to learn). Still i'm so thankful for the hard courses the Teacher has guided me through thus far.
Today i'm able to click pause for a few hours and remember. Glance again at what is my part:
Pray, listen, remember, prepare, focus, respond, praise Him!
I wish I could show it in the circle/cycle way it rests inside me. It's basically a wheel image. Where “praise Him” appears to be at the end, it's actually not. It's always followed by “pray”. It is ever on repeat. It speaks of constant movement even if i'm sitting still. It's an internal motion that's good.
To pray is to acknowledge, “I need You Lord! (in everything), and so i'm coming to you over all things.”
To listen is the still that's needed inside and outside, the proving that “it's not my activity that makes things happen rightly, it will be Your guidance that leads me forward”. It requires self-control and heart-ears-opened. It's shutting out the noise of world and self, and connecting to the wonder of that still-small-voice. It's the whisper of the faithful One inside us.
To remember is the faith building part. It's the living-out of Psalm 77:11-12, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your might deeds.” Remembering the parting and closing of the Red Sea... remembering the burning bush moment... remembering a baby born to a virgin destined for a cross... remembering the veil torn from top to bottom... remembering that a donkey spoke (and even he could speak truth)... remembering an ark and a rainbow and an empty tomb. Remembering the touch of His robe brought her healing... There's so much to remember that builds faith. And I also remember all He has done in my personal life. I remember who I was, who I am still capable of being, and who He invites me to be in His hands. I remember the dark nights i've pleaded with Him and the sureness of the coming sunrise. I remember the innumerable times there has been no way forward unless He does what only He is able to do ----- and He does it. I remember the moments I knew “death” was in front of me, and He stepped between us. I remember and it breathes courage in. Remembering is also a quiet, still time before the good One. Oh the value of being still with Him.
I'm remembering, as I prepare for these 16 days ahead. I'm remembering His faithfulness over these past 5 ½ years.
I'll never be able to share it all. It's a miracle really.
I'm moving back home, but i'm ever-changed.
Steve and I have 16 more sleeps on this side of the world before we board a plane (on my birthday no less) and feel again the sensation of a lift-off that others on the plane won't be feeling. And mostly all I can do in moments like that is sit in quiet amazement.
I look at my journal entries, going all the way back to 16 days before we left home and felt the lift-off that would carry us to life in Kenya. I remember well those days and I want to go back and hug that lady who penned out her heart. She was leaning into the wind of obedience and giving it all she had. But good-grief, she was so aware of her sorrow and need. She was honest with ink. Imagine it. She knew she was obeying the One who made her, yet she still felt profoundly weak. Think of a person preparing to run a triathlon who's also hooked up to IV fluids. I remember how i'd cry out to God saying, “You do know YOU are the One who has to do this. You are aware that I can not do this. You realize this is all YOU, right Lord?” (It's in my journal.... it was real.) And He again was faithful.
16 days before we departed for Kenya, I was helping my daughter and sister make pretty little pink and brown burlap flowers for Maggie's wedding which would take place 5 days before we departed. Sitting at my dear sister's dining room table we laughed and worked (and sometimes cried) out all the details of planning a wedding and moving to Kenya. It was a lovely time. It was a gut-wrenching time. And now I sit 16 days before departing from Kenya and flying back home.... 10 days of intense teaching is complete (10 more teaching days will begin next week), final exam given this morning, we'll go visit a woefully sick little girl today and carry desperately needed things to her and her family in a slum nearby. If we had never come, we would have missed so much that is in His heart.
And --- we'll return home changed.
We've seen and smelled and heard and felt much that could never let a person stay the same.
I've been held in the arms of strong Kenyan women who have scars. I thought I was suppose to hold them in my arms..... but they were so quick to hold me. I've seen strong American women care so deeply for them and for me, and do the best they could to reach for us all. The flow of His heart through them, it's overwhelmed me body and soul. I've had Kenyan ladies inspire me and American ladies compel me forward. I've watched Kenyan girls flounder in the grip of cruelty, and found courage to enter the arena with them. They don't necessarily want to be “rescued”, they really just want to be able to believe they are loved and they can rise above. THAT is a miracle to see.
Heaven is the place of rescue.
Heaven will come for everyone who carries Christ inside them.
Facing the realness of a hard world makes us know --- we can not rescue anyone really. But we can carry His love to them. It's no small thing. It's the right way.
Love God – Love others.
It's the stepping stones that lead to the moment of relief. The moment of release. The moment when we will, in Christ, step out of this broken world and into His HOME. That's the place of rescue.
But that can only happen --- true “rescue” can only come ---- after HIS LOVE has entered in and they are able to see that nothing can separate them from His love. WE CAN rise above whatever surrounds us because HE HAS entered into that place with us.
It is in the remembering, we are compelled to prepare (for what is next)...... to focus (on that assignment)........respond (in the way He guides)....... and praise Him again and again, because we know it's all His.
His journey (being lived out in us).
His plan (being worked out through us).
His heart (being guided in our own).
And His love (that brings the Light).
Without His love --- darkness overwhelms. Mansion or slum, in wealth or poverty --- without the entrance of His love, darkness keeps the light shut out.
I've learned so much (in a hard classroom) these 5 ½ years. Perhaps, this reality is at the top of the long list. It's been learned at a deeper place found only in the guts of a heart that's been broken and restored.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.............”(1 Cor. 13:1-2)
This restored heart is gushing over the joy of what's ahead.
HE authors it all.
Aren't we all so thankful for that?
Friday, October 12, 2018
How can He possibly be so attentive and caring? While He sits enthroned in the heavenlies, is praised without end by creation, commands the angel armies ----- He still gives focused care to His soul-carrying little ones. Little ones....... that's us friend.
It seems the older I get the better i'm able to grasp just how infinitely tiny I am. So little. When we stand beside the great oceans, we feel our smallness (and don't we love that feeling). When we look at the massive size of the mountains, we know. We are specs in a massive universe.
The Camino De Santiago is a path often called The Way of St. James. It stretches from the western corner of France all the way across the country of Spain ending at the far western town of Fisterra. Ages ago most people believed Fisterra, Spain to the the edge of the world. They thought if you sailed past Fisterra's immense ocean horizon, you would fall off the world. Remembering history class helps us put it in place. Columbus believed the world was round while most everyone else thought it to be flat. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Steve and I have just completed the 29 day journey of biking (and on the biggest hills, walking) the Camino De Santiago. I've never felt so tiny and needy in all my life. Everyday we prayed as the sun came up, literally saying, “Father we need you again. We're so needy of You.” Our fifty-something- selves felt overwhelmed at the daily task of biking another 20+ miles day after day after day. Muscles we didn't remember we had came alive again ----- and they ached as they woke up. It was a struggle to put away the wish for comfortable and familiar. But for almost 2 decades we had wanted to travel this path the apostle James had carved out on his missionary journey to a very pagan people. The goodness of God and the teaching of Jesus had never crossed those huge mountains and flat plains. All they had were other lesser gods, created by people in an effort to reach for something greater. When James arrived, they had never heard the Truth, they did not know the Way, they had no hope for the future. To walk (bike) that ancient path was an experience I will likely spend the rest of my days processing.
It is the "smallest" i've ever felt. It was right.
Every morning we asked for His help. We knew we couldn't cover the ground in front of us if He did not go before us. Every evening we asked for His help. We knew we wouldn't find a place to lay our heads if He didn't provide. Every night we asked for His help. We knew our sleep would only come if He gave us the gift of rest. We knew we could not do the Camino if God did not do it through us.
I looked at other pilgrims, the term used for everyone traversing the Way, and wondered if they too knew their inability, or was it just me that felt so profoundly unable? At least 2 dozen times I wanted to turn in my mountain bike and get a bus to the airport. Not kidding. But inside me there was this urging, like an invitation, “Come, do this with Me”. It was yet another experience of knowing that if I did not do this, I would have to answer for it when I stood before Him on that great judgement day. So I talked long with the Father. We talked through all the reasons why I wanted to give up. He spoke so clearly to my heart. Here's a sampling of some of our talks during the 500+ miles I peddled across Spain.
Me: Now God, you know there are about a hundred other things I need to be doing right now...
Abba: None of those things will please me as much as you spending these miles with me.
Me: But God, don't you think people are going to think i'm indulging in a month long sabbatical?
Abba: If they do, that's between me and them. Focus on what I think donna. I'm your Defender.
Me: But God, what about our wonderful supporters? People who give so generously every month so we can obey Your call and serve others?
Abba: Those supporters give because I, God, stir their hearts to do so. Their support is about Me and what I'm doing through you, it's not about you and what you think you're doing for Me. They are giving to Me ----- not you.
Me: But what if we get hurt doing this Lord? You know there are so many things that could mess-us-up on this journey...
Abba: Do you trust me or not?
Me: I want to do this Abba, I really do. But i'd rather have a bunch of friends with us. It would feel so much safer and we'd all have so much fun.
Abba: I'm jealous for you.
Me: Will you use this journey?
Abba: I already am.
Me: Did James know all the ways you would use his obedience?
Abba: He didn't know then. He knows now.
Me: Is it right that I feel so immensely small and useless?
Abba: I've been waiting patiently for you to feel this way. I can use a tiny daughter.
And so it went, on and on, day after day. I'd speak out my heart (no hiding allowed), and He would respond. Scripture flooded my mind. I'd cry and the wind would dry my cheeks. He'd guide the direction of my eyes to notice the little things that He never misses; things He adores. The old couple, each with a cane, walking slowly holding hands. The bird that flew beside me stopping on fence posts to wait for me to catch up and as I passed it would sing so loudly.
The millions of dandelions e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Over and over again I'd be walking my bike up a mountain (cause this little-girl can NOT pedal straight up), looking down (so the sweat wouldn't keep sliding into my eyes) and there would be another bright dandelion, smiling up at me. The times the wind was at my back, almost as if there were wings pushing me onward. The times the wind was in my face, pushing the pesky flies away. Do you know how hard it is to bike uphill with flies attacking your eyes and nose?... maybe you do. I didn't. I do now. But when strong winds come, flies can't stay. (there's another whole blog in that sentence)
Every thought i've had about the transitioning from Kenya back to home in the States, well, we sorted it out on that long bike ride.
Every hurt i've wrestled with while living in Kenya........ we set right and laid down at the foot of the cross.
Every concern i've had about “are You sure about this change in ministry?”, I cried it out to Him and He reassured me again that, it's His, not mine. His words to my heart were, “Well of course you feel unsure, since it's not your idea, not your plan, and you know you can't do it.
It's mine, my plan, and I will do it. You just obey me daughter...”.
And the Savior soothes the soul He knows, and strengthens the weak knees He made.
Imagine it..... He doesn't despise our weakness. He glows IN IT.
This morning this tiny-Light-carrier sat with His words again. Steve brought my morning cup of wake-up and read these Oswald Chambers words to me. And these are the words we ruminated over together.
~from October 12 – My Utmost for His Highest
“Enoch walked with God...” Genesis 5:24 (imagine our hearts, we just finish a 532 mile journey and this scripture preaches to us more than ever before)
“The true rest of a person's spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person's worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him --- it means getting your second wind spiritually. In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. The individual person is merged into a personal oneness with God, and God's stride and His power alone are exhibited.
It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. It was said of Jesus – “He will not fail nor be discouraged...” (Isaiah 42:4) because He never worked from His own individual standpoint, but always worked from the standpoint of His Father. And we must learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned through the atmosphere that surrounds us, not through intellectual reasoning. It is God's Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible. Getting into God's stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don't give up because the pain is intense right now--- get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.
Oh dear one, along The Way these words lived. If “i” thought I could do anything (within my human self), it became almost laughable at how quickly the impossible-wall overwhelmed me. But if I kept my internal and external focus on the pace of my Father walking beside me, before I could even grasp the size of the mountain in front of me, it would be behind me. I felt almost giddy over the sense of being carried.
Even though my feet took every step or pedaled every inch ----- so often at day's end I wondered if i'd actually done it.
And I knew --- we were traveling at His pace. My job was to show up, be honest with Him, and then l-i-s-t-e-n. Now then, it's ok if you might be thinking i'm a bit wacky. I'd likely agree with you. But still --- I want you to have this, to know this, to journey far with the One who adores you completely (battle-scars and all, imperfections wash away beside Him). To travel the distance of your numbered days with the One who wants to carry you. You probably won't need to walk across a country, or bike to the sea. You can journey the distance right where you are. But for sure, you'll have to put sole to soil and press yourself to obey ------ and then it'll come to you too. The joy of watching the Holy Words come alive ---- when you see it happen, when, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” “...He rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.” “Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord... He is your shield and helper (your Ezer).” ~from Deuteronomy 31:8, 33:26-29
There's so much more to share and in time, at the right pace, the pace of the One i've settled down into. I hope i'm able to put it rightly in words that can honor Him and encourage you. In the mean time, this tiny-daughter is moving forward, peaceful in front of the mountain, secure on the shoreline of mighty waters. She knows the One who's in charge. His robes have become her blanket.
And step......... step.......... step.........