Wednesday, December 4, 2013
With cut paper doll toys in a cardboard box filled with sand, we lay on the grass under blue skies, and he told me a story.
He's a boy in Kenya ---- a boy with a story.
But on this day, he didn't tell me “his” story. Instead, he shared one he made up in his mind.
A story of forgiveness... coming from one who has solid grounds to hold unforgiveness inside.
Allan is his name. I asked if I could share his story with many. His soft smile and gentle nod is why I now humbly share it with you.
Once upon a time there was a man, a woman, and a baby. They lived in a small house together. They had a garden but nothing was growing there.
One day they found a large parcel. They were excited. They hoped something special would be in the package. But when they looked inside, nothing was there except for one tiny seed.
The man and the woman thought perhaps it was a bean seed, so they planted it in their empty garden.
Every day they cared for the seed. They watered it and watched over it carefully.
Day after day the seed grew until finally it grew into a tree. They were not sure what kind of tree it was until one day an apple grew on the tree.
The man picked the apple and took his knife to cut the apple in half so they could share it for dinner.
But when he did so, they found gold coins inside the apple.
Wow! They were so excited. Never had they ever had so many coins.
The family put the coins in their pocket and went to town to buy food. Each day they picked another apple from the tree. Each day they went to town to buy more food.
Soon they had plenty of food so they began to buy others things with the coins found inside the apples from the tree.
They bought new furniture and clothes and many other things for their house.
Then the man decided to build a very big house so his family could live in a nicer place with many things.
The apple tree kept growing coin filled apples so the family was soon able to move out of the small house and into the big house.
When the man and the woman saw their neighbors on the roadway or passed by them in town, the man and the woman no longer greeted them. They were so busy buying things for themselves they seemed to have forgotten their neighbors.
When the family had lived in the small house they had always welcomed their neighbors and given them kind greetings when they passed by.
But not now.
The family was so busy picking apples and buying new things with the coins inside, they forgot to continue caring for the apple tree.
The tree became unhealthy and was not able to give so many apples as it had before.
Then one day the mother said, “We must remember to water our special tree or it will die.”
And so they did.
Soon the apple tree began growing apples again.
The family was very excited.
One morning, when the apples were nice and ready, the father picked one and cut it open with his knife.
But no coins were found inside the apple, only dust was found where the coins had been.
The family was very sad.
What would they do?
In time, the family decided to sell all their fine furniture so they could use the money to buy food for their stomachs. Then one day the father said, “We must sell this big house we built so we can buy food. We will need to move back into the small house where we use to live.”
The family was very sad and hungry.
One day the family heard voices.
They saw their neighbors coming down the path leading to the small house.
They remembered how many times they had not greeted their neighbors and even ignored them when they saw them in town. They were sad.
The neighbors knocked on the door of the small house.
The man and woman opened the door.
How surprised they were to see their neighbors arms filled with food and water! They welcomed the neighbors into their house and knew ------ they would never forget this kindness.
And the lesson to my story is this...
We must always forgive.
White clouds were floating overhead. Birds sang loudly. Dogs barked in the distance. Wind slid silently through tree leaves above us. And in front of me ----- sat a tiny teacher.
We sat in silence after the story ended.
He smiled a shy “did you like my story?” kind of smile.
I smiled a “that was a wonderful story” kind of smile.
And I wondered...
did young Allan know he was preaching a sermon better than any pastor in any pulpit?
This wounded child was teaching me, the one who was working to minister to him.
I'd learned the lesson of forgiveness before. I'd memorized the scriptures and even told the Bible stories to others. I'd spent a whole year of my life repeating the simple words “be quick to forgive and generous with grace donna, quick to forgive and generous with grace” and worked diligently to live the words, not just say them.
But never had the reminder come in such a way as this; with little dark-skinned hands moving cut paper doll toys across white sand ----- and narrations spoken in soft, lyrically laid words rolling from such a tiny tongue.
We can read of it in Matthew 18: 21-35.
Forgive others when they have wronged you or the Father who loves most will allow the “torturers” to torment.
We don't forgive because the offender deserves it... rarely could they ever deserve it. We forgive because we are told to do so by the Father ---- and we can trust that He truly knows what is best.
Is it any wonder my blood chilled through and through as I sat with this child who had been rendered deeds that required MUCH to be forgiven ----- and forgiveness flowed all round.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Whatta ya' do with it?
I wake up peaceful each and every morning here --- that's a pure, straight-up miracle in itself. The one who wakes up beside me begins every morning praying. We hear the world waking up around us outside as we talk to Abba about everything you can imagine. Seriously --- everything...
The roosters crowing.
The dogs yelp and snarl (the guard dogs here on our compound are intense!)
Cars rattle down our bumpy dirt road.
We don't budge from our bed until we've established again exactly who is Boss.
We make our way downstairs to the kitchen. Coffee and toast for Steve, tea and granola for me. Silently we gravitate to the veranda with our books and Bibles and breakfast tray.
The bird sounds in the morning are mesmerizing here... birds do mornings so much better than people.
Then the tension begins.
The voices of people --- speaking words we don't yet understand fully. We can grasp just a touch of what's being said --- but all those words in between that we don't yet know, we're clueless about.
She walks in the gate, early, early. Seven days a week we hear her rattle that early morning gate. She speaks no English, but she's slowly come to trust us.
When veggies are gathered from our garden, we always make sure she has some in her bag at day's end.
Khesed love tears down walls.
Khesed --- the original Hebrew word referring to "loving-kindness". The kind of love that is given with no measure-for-measure return expected. It's the kind of love that focuses on giving --- not receiving. Ruth loved Naomi with a khesed kind of love. It's such a beautiful love, with clear waters around it. Not muddied by the ugly tinges of "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine...".
So after 4 months of living here, she finally smiles and waves big to us each morning. It's taken some work to get this far.
We've learned... her mother is a Christian lady who loves her very much. But she married a drunkard who beats her hard. When my day is tough ---- i think of the dear lady who rattles our gate each morning as she comes to work for another after enduring another night with the drinker.
Tension. Not just my tension ---- but a Holy kind of tension ---- because i don't think for a second my Abba is ok with her world.
The donkey drawn cart goes rattling by. Two donkeys pulling a too-heavy-cart. The man on top whacks them again with his heavy stick. The pop makes my stomach roll over. i want to run out of the gate, chase him down, grab the stick from his hand, and smack him until i hear the same deep pop (yeah, some great missionary i am huh). Tension ---- righteous anger mixed into that tension...
Our new missionary friend has taken in a tiny baby. It was abandoned at the hospital by it's too-young mother. The hospital called her to say, the child is too small to survive in the hospital, there aren't enough hands to give it the care needed. Paperwork is completed, the 3.5 pound treasure finds itself cradled in creamy white arms. After many nights of round the clock feedings, we get to help care for the miniature angel, while those who have brought her under their wings get a good, long, uninterrupted night's sleep. We hold her. Almost losing her in the blanket that swallows her. What a beauty she is. How could a mother abandon such a treasure. As the nighttime gave us silent visiting hours together, i talked long with Abba. He was very near. And my words rolled into praying for the mother who knew she couldn't take care of this little one she had held inside. For all her days ---- she will miss her doll. She was a girl herself. I wept for her "mother-heart" as i looked into the perfect round eyes she had never seen. And i knew... she was not a "bad" person. She went to the hospital, she gave birth in a safe place, then she... ran. But she did NOT use a wire on herself to abort the little one inside. She did not throw her baby in the bushes. She did not keep the child only to watch it suffer in her world. She went to perhaps the cleanest place in town, gave birth, and ran. Tension --- oh such a gut-rending tension.
The street "man" (not a boy, but not a man by any stretch of the imagination) argues with my husband, spouting out lies, "you said you would give me money for food today... you promised..." No such promise had been made. But how do you talk rationally with a drunk, high, street guy. Street boys gathered 'round. They're learning. My husband stands his ground and speaks truth to the obstinate, toothless, loud drunk. To give him a shilling would be to teach the boys how to stay on the street. To walk away... is hard. We're here to help... right? But when he continues to rant his lies, louder and louder ---- "the very thing i do not want to do, that is what i do..." (Paul would have understood the tension.) I raise my voice and act nothing like i want to act, but the confrontation is short and effective. Oh God... the Tension on that day deserves a capital "T". But as the man walked away, even through his drunkenness, he understood full well, he had gone too far. There is a line.
Twenty women have gathered in the room with me. I tell them the story of Ruth. Three times i tell the story. They are frozen in their seats. Like beautiful, little girls, their eyes remind me of little girls. And we talk of the love we see woven throughout the story. It's not just any kind of love ---- it's that beautiful khesed love. We "cough" the "k" sound together as we say the word aloud. Eyes become misty as we realize the great tension that was surely there with Ruth as well. Husband dead. No food. No home. Gleaning in the field her only option.
But everything she did, was wrapped in khesed.
... and God sees...
Monday, October 7, 2013
Eager but timid feet followed the missionary in front of me. I had asked her several times to take me to the slum. She use to go there weekly, to teach a Bible study and pray with the ladies. But demands of work at the Children's Home had taken priority; she hadn't been to see the ladies in weeks. The urging inside me to visit the ladies was a pressing that came from above. It wasn't “my” plan ---- but it was something that daily came to my mind --- a Holy Spirit whispering, i've learned to listen.
My mind told my eyes to take pictures as we walked. I brought no camera with me for two reasons:
- Hungry people sometimes measure things by how many meals it will put into their stomach, a camera translates into food for many nights in the slum. Why tempt in that way...
- To take pictures would have felt disrespectful. I was not there to capture glimpses of poverty --- I was there to obey...
We walked with two beautiful, young, women, maybe in their twenties, if I were a modeling agent they both would have been hired on the spot. Slender with high cheek bones, small features, bright eyes, and skin that glowed, I wondered if they realized how stunning they were. They were kind and gentle; dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and wearing flip flops. I was amazed these two “models” were trekking through the mud and trash with us. But this is their home; this is where they live and minister.
Children were everywhere ---- children = hope.
As we entered the slum, school children were sitting on mesh feed sacks working busily stripping dried kernels from cobs. The pearly grains fell around them onto the waiting sacks. What a picture --- happy, busy hands all pausing to greet the wzungu shouting, “How are you?” in the common high pitched, nasally sound. It's comical the way they mimic the english accent. These were happy children --- they held golden grains of food in their hands. Returning greetings, we walked through winding, dry-mud pathways weaving between stick/mud houses, dodging low hanging tin roofs. We were fortunate the rains had not yet come for the day and the drunks were not yet saturated. I could smell the “brew” cooking; a homemade concoction that sells for cheap and rots the brain --- used by those who have lost hope (or thrown it away) and are willing to rob others of the little they might have.
Hut after hut we visited. Small doorways led from bright sunlight to a dark room. Each abode had two rooms, one for sitting and cooking, one for sleeping. Dirt floors under our feet, mud walls around us, tin roofs overhead with no electricity – we relied on the light flooding in from the open door. The smell of burned kerosene and homemade charcoal mixed with “living” was consistent. But each home we visited was neat as could be (all things considered). In a space roughly 10x12 there were usually six places to sit, a “coffee table” in the center and stacked bags of treasured belongings filling 3 corners with clean doilies (just like my great grandmother used) spread carefully over the couch and two chairs. It was their way of “welcoming” us. For surely the moment our car had parked at the slum entrance news had spread of our arrival --- their hands had been busy making jewelry they hoped to sell. Paper beads strung together = food for their children.
We sat. Talked. They would empty onto the table one of the plastic bags from the corner. My friend and I would buy what we could and then we would all pray together for their health, provision, protection, healing... prayers i've prayed over my loved ones ---- but somehow here it feels... different...it's Him or death (usually with much pain).
I was entering their world. They were allowing me to. And in the midst of the dirt and mud --- Light was near. These ladies (some of them) glowed with Abba. He was their most prized possession, something no thief could steal and no drunk could beat out of them. One older lady was quite mesmerizing --- did she know the Light inside her shined brightly? She was enchanting. The light grey halo in her cataract altered eyes drew me. Her unhindered smile and her gentle hand on the head of the child beside her warmed me. She wore a light blue t-shirt and a clean,old skirt, a simple white beaded necklace around her neck and a worn-tattered scarf on her head --- but the air around her sparkled. My friend shared with me, “She's a grandmother who cares for all these little children running around here – if they need anything, she is the lady they come to. She feeds them and loves them. They don't belong to her, but she makes them feel as if they do.” I loved her.
Sunlight poured into her tiny portion of the slum--- no dark shadows hung here.
How could beauty be found in the middle of------ this?
I was reminded of many houses back “home”. Just prior to leaving for Kenya I had visited a newly remodeled home. It was elaborate and beautiful but shadowy, filled with well-decorated “empty” spaces. But here, I stood beside a simple, mud hut filled with Light and children and a woman that was known as a giver, a lover --- children twirled around her and she radiated goodness and kindness and gentleness and peace. She wasn't “trying” to be enough or have enough ---- she was busy --- living and loving. Oh how I wish I could put her into words --- for if I could, we'd all want less of what we work so hard to have and we'd want more of what she so simply is. As we prayed, I thanked God for sharing her with me. He flows through her in that place...
A few huts more took us to the home of Martha. We entered her neat dirt world, pausing again to let our eyes adjust to the shadowy light inside, and found her lying on her bed. Our beautiful guides shared with us how long Martha had been sick. Her swollen body was weak, her voice came only in a whisper. Someone cared for her well though --- her grown son was just outside, a kindness to his face that spoke of his mother's goodness. She spoke in her native Turkana which was translated for us. She knew she was dying. She repeated softly, “i want to go home, I want to go home...” Quick conversation shared her story with me. She was Abba's daughter, my “sister”, now living far from where she had been born. Her dying wish was to end her life where she had begun ---- north of here, not in a slum, she wanted her tired body laid to rest in her homeland. She wanted to go home before she went HOME.
As I held her arm and looked into her half-blind eyes, my mind traveled back to my grandparents. While Turkana words filled the air around me I whispered out-loud to my Yahweh. “Lord, if she were my Pop or Papa James, i'd be emptying my pockets to honor their dying words. Oh Lord, what is my part here, why am I sitting beside your Martha, what words will you allow to flow from You to her ears. Can I please be your girl in this dark room with this dying woman...?
We prayed together.
She squeezed by arm.
Death was tangible in the room.
I whispered to our lovely guides, “What would it cost to get her to Lodwar?”
They answered, “1500 KSH” (my mind converted quickly ---- less than $20US)
I asked, “But how will she get there, she can not go alone?”
“Someone would need to take her...”
I whispered more softly, “If God provided the bus ticket, is there someone who would take her?”
Bright white teeth shined in the dark room as Patricia smiled. “If God buys her a ticket for tomorrow's bus, I will carry her on the long journey back home.”
Steve and I have precious supporters (you may be one of them). Dear ones who would want to reach 10,000 miles with love and buy a one-way-ticket home for Martha. I began to weep as I thought of their faces. I'm here out of obedience. I'm here to love. I'm here to be ready to speak Truth and live Love. Martha needed help--- she wanted to say goodbye in peace --- so she could finally go HOME.
“Patricia, I think I hear God saying, He's bought her a one-way ticket on tomorrow's bus, and He's bought a round-trip ticket for you.”
Mud/stick walls do not limit the reach of the Shepherd.
Sickness draws Him nearer ------ it does not repel Him.
Dirt floors do not hinder Him, mud matters not to His feet.
Whispers from a dying soul, like prayers from a child ----- capture the Holy One.
In Kipsongo slum I felt "the shelter of the Most High" and witnessed Martha "rest in the Shadow of the Almighty".
… “i will say of the Lord He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust...
… my heart is not proud... my eyes are not haughty... I do not concern myself with matters to great or too awesome for me to grasp... instead I have calmed and quieted myself... like a weaned child who no longer cries for it mother's milk... like a weaned child is my soul within me... oh martha... put your hope in the LORD now"... and prepare your eyes to behold His face at last.
(taken from Psalm 91 and 131)
"God isn't looking for people of great faith,
but for individuals ready to follow Him."
Friday, September 27, 2013
A short drive from Kitale town rises impressive Mt. Elgon. Mountains seem so mighty, like majestic, unmovable giants. When living in Georgia, Steve and I would “run away” to the Appalachian mountains. There's a sense of Godliness when sitting atop something created by Him that proves our tininess. How like God it is, that after moving us all the way to Kenya, He places us beside massive Mt. Elgon. He knew of our love for tall mountains and quiet nature, He placed that in us.
Nature here is quite different than that of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Georgia. Black bears are replaced by leopards, deer by antelope, horses by zebras, and cattle by water buffalo. Oak, pine, dogwood and poplar trees from home are dwarfed by the massive trees growing in this wild land. Acacia trees decorate the mountain side while dense forests are filled with nandi-flame and baobob trees. Black and white monkeys dance through the high limbs here while black and white skunks hold fast to solid ground back home.
The mountain was formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. The same earth shifting movements that shaped the Great Rift Valley also pressed the mountain up into the sky. Caves formed over time as rushing waters eroded softer soil, but water was not working alone. Elephants discovered salt in the walls of the caves on Elgon.
Last week we returned to the mountain, thankful for the chance to visit a place that is controlled ONLY by God. Men seem to have their hands on almost everything in this world. Even our churches are managed by skin-covered-clay-vessels. Stepping into the wild places created and controlled by Abba --- there's something much akin to Holiness there.
As we drove through the muddy, wild, winding roads underneath the massive trees that dwarfed us, we came to a trail leading to Chepnyalil Cave, a place we had not yet visited. A short hike up a sharp incline carried us to the waterfall beside the cave opening. Wildness all around, we were transfixed by God's beauty. Staying ever alert, we were watchful as we stepped into the mouth of the cave. These places are not tame; they should be approached with respect. The dank, musty smell of the great vertical hole in the earth is the first to greet. But then immediately we notice the huge boulders that have fallen from the cave ceiling above us. No walls are shored up or supported, we walk cautiously. Next our eyes see drawings on the wall --- or are they fossils? We aren't sure.
ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16... I know what I am touching is “ancient”(but I will receive not directions from it's lines). There is a sense of awe and wonder in the air of this musky cave as I look around me. My skin shivers when I begin to grasp what my eyes are actually seeing ---- huge, old, ivory protruding from the stone walls and ceiling over my head.
I was overcome and speechless (if you can imagine), and yet squealing with excitement all at the same time. Overhead was a grouping of bones that most surely could have come from something the size of the dreaded T-Rex. We walked further and found more bones... a huge jaw-bone with teeth still set into it, teeth that spoke of fierceness and danger, but held still above me. My imagination was overwhelmed. A hole in the cave ceiling presented lacy fern frond fossils.
It was mesmerizing --- so loud in its silence. We climbed up on the massive boulders, careful at first, then more bold as we felt their solidness underneath us. And my dear Steve said ----- “What could have caused these huge pieces to fall from so high above us? Surely it was an earth shaking of some sort... I wonder if they could have come crashing down on the day Jesus was crucified and the earth shook in darkness?...”
The reality that where we were standing had once been visited by huge animals created by the same God who created us, and the earth had shifted and now held their mighty bones tightly in stone before us, and these bones were tucked into their rock blankets long before Christ walked under the skies above them... it all felt so Holy.
So many had been born, lived, and died between the breathing of these huge animals and the breathing of me... Abraham... Ruth... Noah... Moses... David... Christ... … …
The brevity of our breathing days is undeniable.
There is much to be done, many to be loved, more to be given, but ---- there will always ONLY be ONE to be worshiped...
When my bones lay still ----------- will it have mattered that I took up space and breathed air? Most of all, will I have worshipped the ONE by the way I lived?
The Alpha and Omega was here before the bones of the cave carried muscle ----- and He will be here long after my bones lay silent and still.
May they move while they can, for good, God-honoring reasons... until...
Hebrews 11:32 – 40
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning;they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
|Our sweet Talouse cat back in Georgia|
We're living in the middle of unfamiliar and “different” these days. And “different” is slowly becoming the new familiar. So, this past month i committed to making note of things that have not changed – the things that can feel “just like home” if i'll let them. In the beginning i believed i would find little to journal about. But...
For fun, next month i plan to journal on the “unfamiliar and different”.
This month, however, has proven to be an exercise in “comfort”.
Here are 36 simple things ----- that have not changed ---- neither geography nor culture has altered them an ounce... and i'm so very thankful.
- the way flowers bud and bloom
- the smell of fresh plowed dirt
- the way birds bathe in puddles of water
- the way white clouds float in blue skies
- weeds grow in gardens – even though no one planted them
- the way water falls
- the way hurt people cry
- the way happy children bounce when they walk
- the smell of cut grass
- the way people sit down
- the way birds build nests and feed their baby chicks
- the way death comes...
- the way birds perch in trees and watch the world below them
- the itch of bug bites
- the way babies want their mothers... and the way good mothers respond
- the way it sounds when paper is crumpled
- the way selfishness poisons everything, even the one at the center of it
- the way it feels under a shade tree on a hot day
- dust --- it's everywhere (but it may be different colors in different parts of the world)
- the feel of clean water on dirty skin
- the way rain slows everything above ground but waters everything beneath
- God's Bible – it says the same thing... no matter where it is
- the way it smells after rain
- the way a real smile comforts a lonely heart
- the way wind moves tall grass
- the elusive line between “too much” and “not enough” --- (contentment with what we have)
- the way bruises prove something hit too hard (but bruises are harder to see on dark skin)
- the way a leaf falls to the ground
- the fact that birds sing so much more than people and people waste too much time talking
- the darkness of loneliness
- the way it feels to be authentically loved --- when nothing is expected in return
- the sound of thunder and lightening in the sky and rain on windows
- the smell of puppies
- the moo of cows and the way they move so slowly (back home it was in a pasture, here it's more often on the road)
- the way cats act, whether they weigh 5 pounds or 500
Taken last week in Nakuru."I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay." Job 33:6“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building." Luke 17:28"There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work." 1 Corinthians 12:5-6"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
Saturday, August 31, 2013
The toughest professors in my most challenging college courses never came close to teaching me at the deep levels of cognitive and spiritual development surrounding me these days. Truly, my rate of growth, only reflects the harsh reality that there was so much i did not know. I've never thought of myself as “highly intelligent”. But i never realized “just how little i knew” until stepping into the arenas where logic doesn't compute and no amount of “want to, try to, hope to, maybe i can if i work hard enough” will make an ounce of difference. When in one place there are innocent little ones being broken physically struggling to get through another day of hunger and pain, but then just a few lines of latitude and longitude traveled reveal the same sort of skin covered innocent ones being emotionally ruined by lavish unnecessaries piled around them.
But always in the back of my mind I remember ---- the Garden of Eden.
Eden was God's plan... His gift... in Eden no one person would have had too much while another suffered without.
These reflections are not meant to present some magnificent theological finding.
They're just the ponderings of a daughter ... who is … growing.
The scriptures roll through my mind --- “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”... and I say “Amen”. The Lord is blessed, He is holy and just and loving and merciful. But what of His children?
How often are we acting out “the will of The Lord” in our day to day living?
How much do I act out “the will of the Lord” around me?
The struggle of ---- do I give food to the street children who are ever near me these days. I buy a bag of oranges and give one each to the two boys with jiggered feet and torn, filthy clothes in front of me. And I look at the bag in my hands. And I struggle – missing Eden. Some would actually criticize saying, “don't give them any food, it only encourages them to stay begging on the street”. And I get that point. Others would say, “what would Jesus do, he would surely give them food...”. And I get that point too. Some would say, “just get out of there, come back home to America, where you can avoid the tension, and eat your oranges in peace...” oh God...
I even say to myself, “what are you thinking donna, you're so far away from “home”, from your kids, don't you know you are risking never being near them again with this obedience...”. We aren't suppose to admit things like that are we? But...
Yesterday a pregnant, filthy street woman who looked to be 90 years old came to me as I bought onions at the street market. Oh God!!! her hand is out, she needs help! She carries a little one inside. She's also “mindless” as some of my Kenyan friends would describe it. Dear God, how did her life come to this?? Logic says --- “donna, you can not give her what she needs... you can help her for the next few minutes... but in the end, you can not 'fix' her life...” and this logic is accurate. But... what about the words, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you..”?
In all this tension, this terrible tension ---- my tininess is painfully clear. Like a tiny bush on the side of the escarpment bordering the Great Rift Valley.
Many would say, “oh the problems are just too great, it's too overwhelming, i'll look away or better yet i'll stay far from it, ---- i'll just keep living my life --- and i'll pray for them...” Sometimes it feels like the only possible response to the great need in this world.
But then God plucks a daughter from the peaceful place found at the easier lines of longitude and latitude, and He places her in the middle of where His heart is --- and she stops to hear HIS VOICE.
She realizes she knows too little.
She cringes at the contrast of the two worlds. And He grows her in His ways. “He must increase... I must decrease” (John 3:30) becomes a heartbeat, no longer just inked words on neat white paper.
She cringes at the contrast of the two worlds. And He grows her in His ways. “He must increase... I must decrease” (John 3:30) becomes a heartbeat, no longer just inked words on neat white paper.
She realizes she's a pebble with many rough edges. She's tucked in with all the other pebbles at the bottom of the stream. The flood waters come rushing over her. She can hardly breathe. Other pebbles surround her, she can endure if they can, right? But then the water somehow plucks her up from the sandy bottom. She misses the comfort of the spot she had always occupied in the middle of those who held her securely in her place. Still the rushing waters have swept her away. She crashes into bigger, unrelenting boulders that line the boundaries of the water's edge. Every collision knocks off a sharp edge on her, an edge that had been unseen by her until the moment of impact. But when the chiseling blow comes, she knows --- that sharpness had been there all along, and it needed to go for her journey down the stream to flow more gently. It's a painful journey down the waterway --- but it's so very necessary. She realizes, while tucked into the sand, the rough edges had not been so evident. The sand could cover up. Only the part that was exposed had felt the rushing waters; and those waters had nicely smoothed the portion that had felt their constant flow. But only when the current had pulled her away did the jagged, sharp, far-from-smooth sides show. The steady stream didn't seem to notice or care, but she did. She knew. She had thought she was smooth... but now her jagged edges protruded and collided. She was being changed, transformed, altered, awakened.
For as she found herself carried by the rushing waters, she was seeing things she'd never seen before. She was impacted by boulders she'd only heard of before. In truth, she had been afraid of the thought of such huge boulders and hoped she might never have to encounter them. Tucked safely in her stream-bottom-sand-bed, she had felt certain she would be safe from them. And yet, she was now learning, the giants didn't break her to pieces, they were only allowed to chip off tiny pieces of the jagged sharp sides she had hoped would never be seen.
She was a pebble being tossed about at the will of the rushing stream. She had no control over her course. Helpless. But.... not hopeless.
She knew as she encountered another giant boulder, she could do nothing to alter it ---- but if she just let the waters carry her through, the boulder would impact her, and she would be changed. What needed to go would be chipped away. If her already smoothed side was the surface that hit the giant rock, she would slide off easily, nothing would chip away. Only the jagged edges would chip away when they hit the giant hard places.
The One who made the stream. The One who plucked her from her safe, sandy bed. The One who was over the boulders and set her course for the journey through them. That One would someday gather her up at the end of her journey, and hold her in His great hands. And He would hopefully be able to say, “oh little one, it's been a hard journey hasn't it? You've been tossed about, but look at you now. You're smooth in my hands. There is nothing about you now that would prick another. There's no side of you now that has not been touched and shaped. The boulders were cruel. Not even I wish for the boulders to be so hard. But since they have chosen to be that way... I have chosen to use them in ways that will bring about my good purposes. For you see, i've been steadily at work to help you. You're heart had cried out to me, you wanted more of Me; you wanted to bless others, not cut them with your sharp edges. So the work began. And little one --- all along the way, you thought you were having no impact on the giant, hard, unrelenting boulders --- but you did. Look back. My rushing waters that carried you through have been working on smoothing those hard places in this world. You alone didn't change them, but the combination of you along with many others like you mixed in with my waters ---- together we've made a difference. Some of the boulders are now many tiny pebbles rushing down the same stream you've just traveled. And some of the cruel boulders are even now being slowly worn down and weakened. Little stone in my hands ---- I will use you and the many like you ---- to transform even the hardest places. You will never understand the hard places, your mind is not equipped to do so. But I do. And i'm at work.
I, God, know the pregnant homeless lady who ripped at your heart yesterday. I know her intimately. You can't change her any more than you could change the boulder beside the stream. But I, God, I will continue to flood my waters over her. She will not have one day that I, God, am not willing to draw near her and smooth away all that is rough and wrong. She might not feel like she has a choice. But remember my Word --- if she will turn to me, she will find me.
You --- just be my pebble.
Allow me to toss you according to my good will ---- your course is not hap-hazard. I chart each turn and curve.
The awareness of all that you do not “know” and the starkness of all that is wrong in this fallen world. The moments of newness that overwhelm you and make you face your intense inability and weakness ---- just be a pebble in those moments and allow Me, the One who is not weak, the One who loves you dearly, the One who is not overwhelmed, allow ME to carry you through.
I will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
Monday, August 12, 2013
He was standing between bushes on the side of the mud road. It would be better described as a narrow mud trail. His clothes, old and frayed, were almost the same color as his skin, like perfect milk chocolate. His smile. It glowed. Tiny and barefooted, he stood there alone, but he knew how to welcome someone.
He waved loudly, I waved back and smiled --- trying to match the glowing smile on his tiny face. But then I noticed the twitch of his eyes. His whole forehead jerked as muscles in his eyelids moved in abnormal ways. My mother-heart jumped ---- but then we were past him ---- and I whispered to Abba.
We were on our way to speak at a Pastor's Conference. Several dozen men were expecting us; we had been asked to encourage them on unity and reconciliation.
We were almost there, the Pastor's were gathering, but we were “watching” for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. For in truth, we wake daily knowing, only what Abba says through us will be worthy. We had prayed and read and prepared ourselves as best we could ---- but we live with the keen understanding, we are clay vessels ---- vessels that are only valuable because of what we hold inside. So we look for the daily refilling, we ask for the overflow, we watch for the Holy One to pour Himself through. We were eager for what He would give, He knows what is needed, He just watches for which mouths will open for His Words. After all, how could we possibly know what another stands needing to hear? We can not know what Abba is doing in the life of another ---- but we can open our mouths to let His Life and Truth and Light flow. Amazingly, we so often do not even know what was said that helped them ---- even though we witness the flow. For it's one of the wonderful mysteries ---- God among us, ministering and delivering what is needed, if we remain obedient to just show up.
We drove on through the mud trail and finally arrived at the church. Children were the first to greet us – it's most always that way here. Ladies waved from a distance, but children were all around. Barefoot, beautiful, glowing in the morning light, they watched after each other and reached with eager timidity to shake our hands and greet us with, “How are you?” (said with the most lovely accent and always inflection on the “you”). And then sliding into the mix of them, was the little guy from the bushes. His smile captivated. All their smiles do. They are unhindered by the mud between their toes or the tears in the clothes ---- they were open and excited --- they had someone to welcome, they shined with something so much more lovely than gold.
|The cutey up front is the little one with the eye spasms.|
As we shook hands and giggled together, we were thankful for the gentle way God was easing our nerves with His little ones. We never stand to teach with a gloating confidence ---- we are always willing, but always a bit unnerved. It takes obedience and attention to not allow human flesh to hinder the flow of God. Any pitcher meant to carry good, clean water ----- needs to be scrubbed clean itself. The children were ministering to us with their eager goodness. So often the smallest among us do the most good.
But I noticed the eye spasms of the first little boy. They had increased. Between each muscle twitch his eyes would almost close. It was disturbing to watch. The mother in me wanted to load him up and take him to the nearest doctor. But it is most important to show respect for the adults around him first, to see what others have already done.
As we met with others during the morning, and sipped Kenyan tea before we were to begin the first session, the children lingered near, including the little boy with the twitching eyes. I learned that just the day before a medical clinic had taken place at this very church. Hundreds had come and been cared for by a team of Kenyan doctors and nurses. An American team had raised funds for the clinic and provided meds to be administered. Ministry at its best, in my opinion, many working together for the good of those in need. Unity ---- with a focus ---- that blesses outward. So I asked if the little fellow had been seen by the doctors, did they know what was wrong with his eyes? The kind lady said he probably had not been seen, the doctors only attended to those who stood in line to see them, and there had been a long line all day. But why had no one stood in line with him I asked. I thought of the man who had sat beside the pool at Bethesda year after year, never able to get into the healing waters because no one had helped him. She replied, “We should have thought of this and made sure he was seen, but you see, his mother left him long ago and his father is a picky-picky driver who is gone from sun-up to sun-down. So there was no one to wait with him in line.” She was remorseful I could tell. But I quickly reminded myself she had organized a clinic where hundreds of people had been cared for ---- attention was needed for the boy, but words of appreciation and encouragement were in order for her.
She called a friend over, a pastor in the area who knew of the boy's situation. He explained that months ago the boy's father had taken him to a doctor nearby and had learned there was some sort of neurological disorder developing in the boy that did not allow proper filter of sunlight. He could see better at night than he could in the day. He wasn't in pain, he was just unable to hold his eyes open in the light of day.
And I reminded myself ---- he is a boy whose father is working long hours to try and provide --- he has a father who faithfully returns to him each night. May God bless that father.
I asked who watched over him during the day while his father worked. She waved her arm wide and said, “All the mothers surrounding him”.
The Pastors were gathering, it was time to focus on why we had come. But the little guy tugged at my heart.
Inside the little tin church there were not lights. Doors opened wide let in the needed sunlight. Many men sat in a large circle and worship began. Breezes wafted through as bird songs dominated the loud voices of worship around us. Just outside the open doors a water spout stood, giving clean water from a deep bore-hole. Children lined up with their assortment of plastic jugs waiting their turn to gather the needed water for the day. These little ones did not have to walk miles for water. They only had to walk to the church each day --- such a beautiful thought in so many ways. And while they waited in line --- they danced to the worship. The children teach us, if we are willing to learn.
Introductions were made, we began to share what God had placed on our hearts, the air inside the stick-pole, tin covered church was wonderfully sweet. We all sensed Abba's nearness. Then as we spoke I noticed movement just inside the doorway. Steve was talking so I was allowed the time to look more closely ----- and warmth flooded me as I realized it was the little boy with the twitching eyes. He noticed my eyes on him, he smiled so sweetly, as his eyes held steady. No spasms or squinting. He sat as peaceful as a lamb, completely still, looking around, smiling.
We talked for the full length of the time requested of us --- almost four hours. And for much of that time the little guy sat inside the nice shaded church. Other children carried water and later played in the distance. But this little guy ---- he stayed nearer the shaded places inside the church.
While his father transports riders on his motor-bike all day, this son finds his solace in the shaded, breezy church.
And I wondered ------------ whose eyes are healthier?
In this world we want eyes that can see clearly in the light of day and we understand we should not be able to see well in the darkness. It's what we expect, what our eyes were “designed” to do, right? But as I watched the little boy who found rest in the shaded church and danced to the worship and sat quietly as if he were a grown man listening to all that was being said inside the church ---- I pondered it all.
To be able to see clearly ---- even in the “darkness” ----- it can be done --- with the Light?
Bats and roaches and leopards come out at night...
Darkness is equated to the evil one's arena in the scriptures...
But where do we sometimes find those who are hurting the most in this world?
Here in Kenya, we have been cautioned by Kenyans that we should be where we need to be by nightfall. An occasional drive home from a rare dinner out is ok, but it should not be often. Here on the “dark continent” (as it is often referred to) it is wise to be safely tucked indoors before darkness comes.
Dark places can be very dangerous.
But, this little boy spoke to my soul, without saying a word ----- “the light is wonderful, but it can be blinding for those in the darkness” ---- “bright light is hard on eyes that have only ever known darkness” ---- so as I live out the Light that I so dearly love and cling to, may I be ever so patient and gracious when I encounter those whose eyes are stung at their first glimpses of the Light.
Without words, a little boy with damaged eyes, can teach me.
In caves not far from our home, elephants journey deep into the catacombs searching for salt deposits. They make this journey at night, in the darkness. During the light of day they graze on vegetation that is life-giving but it lacks the salt they need. So at night they take the journey into pitch black caves, scrape the walls with their tusks and eat the salt they find there. How interesting --- they go searching for salt in the dark...
… I wonder how many living in the light of day are still hungry for more Salt... too many times God's good news is watered down, and the saltiness is too. Or could it be at times there are too many other “spices” offered on the table, when truly only good Salt is needed.
I remember --- my Savior was often found in “dark” places ---- shining the Light and delivering life-giving Salt.
Makes living on this “dark continent” taste right to this southern born day-light-loving girl.
Matthew 5: 13 - 16“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.