Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter Trees and Dandelions

(Warning! If you knowingly or unknowingly have an ongoing love-affair with the need to look young, be young, act like your younger than you are ---- this post isn't for you. :)
But if you're willing to embrace the aging process as God allows it to unfold ---- this post will hopefully bless your socks off. It has mine. Years ago I began asking God to allow me to “grow old gracefully” – this post is a partial sharing of His response to my prayer.)

Growing old is suppose to be a beautiful thing. It's the result of having lived many years and still having something to give, to do, to share.

But good grief how this world has twisted our view of growing old.
I'm slowly approaching almost 6 decades of living. I'm getting “older”. Period.
But IF i've chosen to live well and love much – older won't be the focus - outflow will be.

Here's to sharing with you, what Abba has whispered to me about growing better (older).

It's not about getting older. It's about increased OUTFLOW.

Sitting on our mountain porch in December under wintry, grey, stick-like trees, it came so clear.
Those tall oak trees stood brave and bear around me. The picture of winter.
As a child I always thought they looked naked and cold.
Not now.
As a grown woman joyfully living in the autumn of my life, I see them with better eyes.
You see, those tall trees have lived long enough to reach high above every man-made thing around them.

They remember what it was to be a tree in the spring, with sap rising, leaves budding, bark stretching, and birds nesting.

They remember what the heat of summer felt like on their wide green leaves. The rains washed them clean and the sun dried them well. They remember the sounds of children under their shady branches and treehouses built on their strong limbs.

Then came the shocking beauty of their autumn. When the leaves they had grown began to sparkle with colors most extraordinary. No longer were they like every other tree in a coat of green. Now they were unique in their own personal coat of color. And they found their color looked even better beside the other colors around them. Red is pretty alone, yes. But put it beside a bit of yellow and a splash of orange and all together they become astounding! Exactly how it should be with us people.

Fall leaves speak so loudly, if we'll listen.
They say to us, “I've lived well, I've grown. I have memories. And now, I get to bless everyone who walks near me. I'm not longing for spring, i'm celebrating the colors of autumn. I've had lots of sunshine days and soaking rains and i've stored it up so I can give this blast of color. My leaves can not hold it all in, they burst with the joy of living. The richness of the colors only speaks out of all i've seen and learned.” The autumn tree says to the autumn soul, “You have so much to give. Do it with color and joy and life. Bust out of the confines of youth. Share boldly of the richness that life has brought you.”

Next will be the winter. And in the winter of our lives, our leaves will fade in color, and fly. For the first and only time ----- our leaves will do something they've never ever been able to do before. They FLY.

It should be true for us as well. In our winter ---- we should be able to do a new thing, something we've never done before. We should ever be learning and growing and producing. When we stop --- we are no longer actually l-i-v-i-n-g.

The wind will pluck leaves from our limbs and they will fly. It's beautiful really. The Windmaker takes what we can offer and carries it to wherever He wishes. And we, like that winter tree, are not left naked and cold --- instead we are unashamed and eager as we hide nothing and hold everything high. Look at that winter tree. Nothing conceals its long, strong branches as they bravely hold every limb as high as possible, reaching upward always. They are the picture of bare-bold-worship! They are not focused on trying to look pretty. They care nothing about hiding themselves in the folds of many leaves. They know fully what they're made of and they are singularly focused on what is above them. Amazing inspiration drips from their grey branches.

When we enter our winter years, what will “fly” from us? What will the Windmaker be able to carry from us to the world around us? There is a final flight scheduled for us. Will the Windmaker find us having given all, hiding nothing, and boldly showing our reach for Him?

The worldly way will twist this beautiful imagery and distract us from seeing it. The worldly way says we must try and stay young, look young; it says if we're not young then we're not valuable. It says use this cream to remove dark spots, and this cream to minimize aging, have this treatment to plump up tired lines, and this procedure to take 10 years off your face.
But oh that's not the Father's plan.
Take care of ourselves? Yes! Do the best we can with what we have? Yes! But oh, could we please be real about what's real, and not waste time or money on trying to be something we are not (were never suppose to be).

The leafy tree reminds us to embrace the season we are in. Enjoy the new life of spring. Love the warmth of summer. Indulge in the copious colors of autumn. And then be brave in the bare-bold-worship of winter.

There are many ways nature whispers the secret joys of age to us. Can you think of others?
Look at the mountains. Formed from upheavals of volcanic earth activity, their “spring” is steep with sharp ridges. Millions of years pass until the “winter” of their development finds them softened in steepness and covered in green. The beautiful Appalachian mountains are the picture of this. The soil has finally tempered and has become a fertile place for new life to grow. The mountain's “winter” is its most life-giving season.

One more? How about the dainty dandelion flower. It's a fascinating little circle of sunshine yellow. Since i've just written a book entitled “Dandelion: A Warrior Beside Him”, i've taken much time to ponder this little jewel. It teaches so much in its silent presence. It too has a four season life span; it all occurs in less than a month.
Its spring season bursts with a bloom of yellow joy. In this season its stem is usually shorter, holding it closer to the ground.

Then summer finds it closing itself up looking almost as if it has not bloomed at all.

In the autumn of its living the stem grows long, sometimes increasing by several inches. Imagine the work that is taking place in that little flower during its summer and autumn stages.

But then finally comes its winter, when the closed up bloom opens itself wide forming a full round ball of seeds prepared to fly. It fascinates me that the round puff-ball even looks a bit grey, like the grey hair of us in our winter.

Compare the grey puff ball to its much younger version, the yellow flower. While the flower is a beautiful blast of color, it does not yet have the ability to produce the hundreds of seeds the grey-haired puff ball is able to give. The grey puff ball would be woefully amiss if it struggled over its loss of youthful color; what a waste of focus that would be. For indeed, the yellow flower was destined to close itself up so that in the end the ultimate purpose of its existence could be fully known. It must die to its youth in order to produce what is needed. New-life coming from new seeds.
It's a breathtaking reminder, that the grey puff ball sits perfectly still until the wind touches it, grabbing hold of its ready seeds and carrying them at will to the places of its choice. If not the wind, then a bird will indulge in the meal it provides and even still then, it will be carried on wings to many other places. And sweet is the picture when a child eagerly plucks the round seed head and “helps” the wind do its job. However it comes about, the end result is the same.
The seeds are carried.
The dandelion in its winter is able to doing something new, something it's never done before. It releases all it has left to give and life is multiplied.

One dandelion flower obediently living out its seasons of life will produce well over 100 seeds. More than one hundred new blooms will come because the one lived as it should have.
Can we people say as much?
Does the tiny dandelion do its work of living-and-giving better than we soul carriers?

If you're young, may this sharing encourage you to live each season exactly as it should be.
Don't strain ahead trying to grow into another season before it's time to be there. And someday when you're old, don't pine away over the loss of your youth. Each season has a wonderfully important purpose. Perhaps the winter season is the one of most intense value; it is the one where multiplication should be exponential if you've lived your other seasons well. If we can know this in our youth, we can set ourselves up for a most beautiful winter.

If your older, may this sharing encourage you to embrace the wintry gift of multiplication. When there should be nothing hindering our exposed worship with a life raised high and nothing limiting the wind from carrying us. If we've lived well, loved much, and grown in good ways, we now have the chance to fly as the Windmaker carries us wherever He chooses. Perhaps you'll multiply goodness in the generations after you as they live out what you showed them. Or maybe you'll multiply your love of God and Savior as you're legacy travels far. Maybe your life-work will extend to places and people you never knew and in ways you never imagined possible.
It's the very essence of the words, “........to Him who is able to do far more ----- abundantly beyond ------- all that we hope for or imagine, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory.......... to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (from Ephesians 3:20-21)

There is more to give. More to do. More to share. More...........................

Notice how we can see further in the forest when the winter trees stand brave and bare. If we will be brave, bare winter trees, perhaps those younger than us can grow stronger beside us. Isn't it the way of the great forests.

J. C. Penney said,

“I may be losing my ability to see in my old age, but my vision is better than ever before.”

(Being on the other side of the world from them, i miss my mom and dad so much. Writing helps. And in writing this, i'm so very thankful for the way they are living their winter. They inspire. If you don't know them -- i wish you could. If you do, when you see them next -- give them an extra hug from their autumn-tree-daughter.)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

God looked, God saw ---- do i see?

When in doubt, it's a good idea to go back to the beginning of a thing.
It might be the beginning of a conversation that turned south unexpectedly. Or the need to go back to the recipe when it didn't turn out right. Rethink the conversation, where was the kink? Review the recipe, what was missed?

How many times have I gone back to the words, “In the beginning God...”

It's an amazing place to go. It grounds me.
The fluff and flurry of the world, the dirt and dander ---- it gets settled when I go back and remember the way God began it all. It helps me remember His greatness, His character, His patience, His ways. It's a lifetime pursuit to know Him more. It's a need in me. Not because i'm trying to be smarter about God, instead it's because, well, ---- I know me ---- and therefore I know my need of Him. I choose Him.
Try hard as we may ----- in the end, when all that dust settles ----- we know, we can't ---- He can ---- we'll likely mess things up ---- He won't ----- we n-e-e-d Him to show up and do what only He can do or the flurry and dander will overwhelm the air and we'll go down again.

Sometimes I wonder if i'm the only person still in Kindergarten. :)
Seriously --- degrees have not altered my Kindergarten level of thinking.
So when I dare to write my heart right out in front of you ---- it's only that my preschool brain is needing to lay down something and get it out, so I can grasp more of what the Teacher is saying.

Several years ago the good Father whispered something solid-rock in my heart. It shocked me, but I trusted His urging. He does still speak ya' know. He is not silent. But we must measure it all carefully because His voice is not the only one trying to talk to us.
I do not hear “voices”. (God help – some people do...)
I do not believe God speaks to a heart today telling it anything contrary to what His Holy Bible says. It's a good way to measure a thought – does it line up with God's word or not. If not – it's the wrong voice, don't listen friend!
So how can we know if it's a stirring from God? We simply must spend time in His Word in order to understand who He is and what He would or would not be saying.
It's the simplicity of a Father caring for His child.
The child knows the difference between its father's voice and the voice of another man. How? Because the child and father have spent time together. (Kindergarten level stuff) :)

So what was it He said to me, those years ago? He whispered into my storm and said, “I see you. Even if no one else sees you dear, I --- see --- you.” And I wept a river of tears in the floor of my closet.

Then it came again to me several months later, “I see you daughter. I'm not missing a detail. You are not alone, I'm with you, I see you, you are mine and I am yours.” This second time I wept a river of tears in the woods behind our house.
I knew it was the Great One whispering to tiny me because I could run to my Bible and read, “The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (Psalm 121:8) --- so, He sees me, He knows where I am, He cares enough to care for me, i'm not alone. And then there's Matthew 10:29-31 “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” --- so, He has looked at me long enough to know the number of hairs on my head!?! What? I don't even know the number of hairs on my head! Which (kindergarten level again) --- means, He knows me better, more thoroughly, much more deeply, than I know myself.
In order to know the number of hairs on a persons head ----- He surely sees them.
He is near enough to s-e-e the very hairs on your head.

And then there's the time when God spoke to Hagar in the wilderness, she had run away from Sarai who had begun treating her harshly. Hagar responds to the angel's words by using a “new” name for God --- she calls him El-roi – which means “You are the God who sees me”.

It was a defining moment for me. For you see, I was convinced I was wasting air. I had tried to be good; tried to be a good friend, tried to be a good cook, tried to be a good teacher, mother, wife, student, servant, person. But I kept falling short somehow --- it seemed I was never quite enough. (Usually my own scales were inflicting this.)

So I ran back to the beginning --- again.
In the beginning ---- GOD created..... for six days He created, and He said, “it was good”. Until He saw that it was not good for man to be alone. Then He said, “It is not good....”.
Alone --- being alone is not good. Feeling alone is not good. God designed us for relationship; with Him and with others.
Have you ever been surrounded by people, but you've felt alone, unseen? You might speak, and someone talks over you. You might smile at someone and they don't notice your kindness. Alone is a hard thing.
Even a solid introvert likes to at least know they are loved, maybe not smothered and coddled, but not completely alone.

The enemy of God surely heard God's words --- “It is not good for man to be alone.....”

It's why aloneness is one of the tools the enemy uses against people. If he can make them feel alone, he can gain an advantage over them. After all – God said it, “it is not good to be alone”.
Dare I say (at my kindergarten level) --- even God Himself does not choose to be alone! He created angels to surround Him and people to be in relationship with Him. Amazing isn't it. The Creator made us people in His image --- and we reflect the part of God that does not want to be alone.

Yet, somehow we can feel alone even in a crowd of people.
I translate that to being “unseen” in the middle of many.
The feeling of not being “seen” by others produces the same effect as being alone.
To clarify, there are times of daily aloneness that are good. A little quiet time, prayer time, time to reflect and think and ponder ---- this is a necessity. Susanna Wesley, mother to John and Charles Wesley was only able to have this needed quiet, “alone” time by sitting in a chair in the middle of a room filled with her own children and pulling her apron up over her head. Her children knew this was her time to be alone with God and they knew to be quiet and busy when the apron went over mom's head. Chosen moments of quiet and alone time are beneficial.
But the aloneness that is not good speaks of being isolated. Not included. Prisons use this to punish the worst offenders. It's isolation --- solitary confinement.

Not being alone” translates to more than just being with others, it speaks of being “seen”. We know when we are being ignored, overlooked, cast out. It is a tool used by society to wound and isolate.
In some caste cultures, not only were people isolated and not allowed rights, it was considered offensive to even look at them. Still is even today.
Did you ever feel something like that in your teenage years? When you'd innocently walk up to a group of peers hoping to be included in whatever the conversation was about, only to realize no one was making a space for you, no one noticed you, or worse yet, they had noticed you but were not even going to acknowledge you were there. You knew you were “unseen”, not included, not wanted.

Those moments in life come to everyone.
Some people avoid those moments coming to them, by inflicting them on others first.
It's all a cruel game that revolves around the damage of isolation, not seeing, not including another.

One of the reasons social media is so outrageously out of control, is that it seemingly pacifies the ache of aloneness. It takes much less effort to be “seen” through technology than it does to be seen in real life. People can throw a careless statement online, and boom --- they get some attention for it. But in person, if they said the exact same words, they might be overlooked, ignored or even ostracized. Since it's not being said in person, they can be “seen” virtually but not really. The same is true with video-gamers. They can get the sense of accomplishment and community, they are able to feel a part of something even though it is virtual and not actually real. No villain was actually defeated; no arsenal of weapons earned is available in reality. It's a game. It's not real. And if the gaming community does meet in person, their conversations, so i'm told, usually revolve around the “game”. They don't share realness of life, but they have at least found a way to be included in something.
People were not designed to be alone.

In this world so many are wounded, isolated, and left feeling alone.

Counselors tell us that one of their primary tasks is to give people a safe place to be seen and heard. The world population has never been higher than it is today, and yet, we are surrounded by lonely souls.
Social media is not a solution, it is a slow drip of arsenic for the lonely soul.

In the beginning God created much that was good, but when he came to the human created in His image, He said it was not good for them to be alone.

Who do you know that might be lonely or hurting or unseen?
Do they know you “see” them? Do we see them?

A few months ago I was criticized for conveying the words “i see you”. The words that came back to me were, “Why do you say that to people? It's actually not biblical at all for you to tell people you see them.” It's taken me a long time of searching out whether or not I was being biblical or not. I had to go back to the beginning and spend time on my knees over those words.

What a healing ointment it has been to my heart and soul to go through Genesis and make note of all the times God “saw”.
Genesis 1:1 --- He created.
Genesis 1:2 --- His spirit hovered.
Genesis 1:3 --- He said, “Let there be light.”
Genesis 1:4 --- God saw that the light was good.

God was a busy God in Genesis. Read through chapter one with highlighter in hand, mark all the action words/verbs describing God's activity. No matter the translation, you'll see a very busy God as He saw, called, said, made, created, blessed, looked, warned, caused, took, and brought.

The balm for me is that HE SAW that it was good, and He responded to what He saw. And if we are made in His image, and called to His purposes, it makes sense to me that we should see and respond. When God saw Adam and said it was not good for him to be alone, God did something about it. We, as His children, have a responsibility to see what He brings in front of us and respond in the way He guides us to.

I went on to Chapter 3 of Genesis and found something i'd never fully noticed before. It's after the serpent has come and deceived the woman. She ate what was forbidden and so did Adam. Then in the very next verse, 3:7, it says, “At that moment their eyes were opened and they suddenly felt shame...”

Wait --- i'm pretty sure Adam and Eve were created with the ability to see with their brand new eyes. I'm quite certain that when God brought the gift of Eve to Adam, Adam could see her when he said “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh...”
So it's not that they were blind prior to verse 7, it's only that they could not see the difference between good and evil prior to the opening of their eyes. It's why they were ashamed after that first sin came.

So God calls us to be His children, to be His hands and feet, and perhaps be willing to see with His eyes. His eyes will always see through the lens of love and grace. If we only are looking with our earth-bound eyes, we'll see in earth-like ways – and it's possible we won't actually “see” what is right in front of us.
But if we'll be surrendered enough to let God show us what He wants us to see, and then obedient enough to respond the way He wants us to respond --- we'll be in the process of becoming more like the One who is worth conforming to.

God sees you.
God wants us to be His image-bearers who do His good work.
He wants us to become more like Him. (John 13:15, Philippians 2:5, 1 John 2:6, 2 Corinthians 3:18)
Therefore -----
we need to refocus our eyes to be able to “see” each other.
We should see one another.

Facebook and twitter and instagram are only tiny snap-shots --- sort of like looking through the peephole in a hotel door. The tiny bit we can see is only a glimpse and a fish-eye-lens view at that.

Really seeing one another is the only way we can actually know someone and be known by them.

Some do not want to be known because they know if anyone looks too closely, they'll begin to see the parts that have been covered over and concealed. Others do not want to actually “know” someone else, because if they do, they might need to begin to ---- actually ----- do something ---- like ---- care for them in some way. It's easier to click a like isn't it or if possible, just ignore them, don't “see” them.
After all – if I never “saw” them, then how could I possibly realize I should have done something about what I would have seen IF I had cared enough to “see”.

How many times have you witnessed people sitting together but not actually “together” – because everyone was on their phone or computer or playing a game on something in their hands. Hearts don't engage that way.......... (how many children are growing up surrounded, but feeling very unseen?)
So we end up alone, even as we sit with others.

But wasn't it the Good Father, El-roi himself who said, “It is not good for people to be alone.”?

Oh friend --- let's see the ones in front of us. The One who loves best still chooses to see us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

...on earth, as it is in Heaven...

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.
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

Words from a Clay-Carrier-Pigeon

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.

Loaded with boxes and boxes of pads (the night before we traveled), so thankful for the help of Caroline (Kenyan coordinator for Mom's in Prayer), along with Angie and Quillen, dear friends from the States who spearheaded the message and gathered funds for the girls before coming to spend a month with us in Kenya.

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 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.”
~Edmund Burke

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”!!!!)