Tuesday, September 27, 2011

36 Leaves

Steve had gone camping for a couple of days --- being quiet in the woods with nothing but a campfire and a Bible feeds that man. I'm so thankful.
Pete was at school and then scheduled to work till almost midnight.
Mike is doing life in VA Beach and growing his mind and abilities in good, good ways.
It was Friday, and Maggie only had classes until noonish. So we planned a girls day in Dahlonega.

After riding with Maggie to college that morning, she headed to her classes and i perched at the nearby Starbucks with my "God books"; nested in for a few hours.

Then ---- i went outside and found a bench to lay on while i waited for Maggie's classes to end.

Laying there with books converted into a pillow, His music in my earphones, my line of sight was set on "things above" both figuratively and literally.
In a safe place, i could disengage from paying attention to what was going on around me and engage in what was going on above me --- i then began to "see" and "hear" and "know" what would have been missed if i had kept my eyes on the horizontal.

It was a perfect day - blue skies, white puffy clouds (i know they are called cumulus nimbus - but doesn't "white puffy clouds" sound much better.) :) The breeze was crisp and the air felt comforting as it whirled in and out of leaves and me.
The oak tree in front of me was small; a mere baby in "oak years". Beside it stood a grandfather oak, huge and powerful to look at especially from my vantage point. Their leaves seemed to giggle as they danced in the breeze ----- and then the first leaf fell.

Four things in nature qualify as my favorites --- rarely do i have a favorite anything - there are too many wonderful things to choose from. But in nature, i can say these four things make my stomach jump and warm my heart.
1- geese flying overhead singing as they pass (i know it's a "honk" but to me it's music)
2- birds bathing in a puddle of water with wings fluttering and their whole tiny body thrilled at the goodness of the moment
3- crisp blue skies with white puffy clouds moving in the high up breezes
4- watching a leaf fall from it's home to it's destiny, watching it every inch of the way (it's waited its whole existence for this moment - to finally fly)

On Friday, two of my favorites were the gift from my Father --- it caught my breath and lumped in my throat. Only Abba can make a blue sky and glide a cumulus nimbus across it. Only Yahweh can create a leaf and then dance with it as it falls to His ground.

And then His voice came ----
watch the leaves fall donna --- count them --- their falling matters --- to them, and to Me. Watch each leaf, it will fall differently. Some dance as they fall, some twirl, and some fall straight down with a hardness in their falling, beauty lost. And notice donna --- none of them fall to the same place. I'll scatter them all over this well groomed lawn. Some will land close by their mother tree, and some will fly on the wind of my choosing and be carried far away. Some will fall today, some will fall tomorrow, some will cling to their limb and refuse to break free - those are the ones who will be forced to endure winter's cold wind and icy, dark nights hanging in mid air with no cover or protection. For those that "let go" and fall to the place of my design for them, they can rest in their new place and see "life" around them from a whole new perspective. Seeing life from the safety of a high up limb is very different than seeing life from the ground, looking up, where the bugs crawl and people walk.
oh and it continued ---- this whispering voice in my heart ---- was it "my" thinking or my Lord's lessons to me ---- i knew it was right and true and so i let the teaching settle in...

People are much like leaves donna --- much can be learned in the simplicity of watching ME move a leaf.
Here's what i learned/was reminded of/was affirmed of --- last Friday as i watched 36 leaves let go and fly:
1- It's God's design for the leaves to fly from their mothering limb when He sends His breezes over them --- just as it is God's design for His children to "move" and respond when He sends His calling to them.
2 - Those that refuse to "let go" and "fall" when God calls them to do so --- will be stuck on the limb they have clung to --- and feel the harshness of a "winter" they were not designed to experience or endure.
3 - Enjoy fully the spring and summer days of "giggling" in the light breezes of life and be fed by the limb and branch and trunk and roots and water and air --  be strengthened ---- but do not think they are the final resting spot --- or that it will always be summer days of light breezes. For the leaf to run its race well, it must release and fly.
4 - Some leaves fall straight down, some glide on the wind --- no one leaf is better for having traveled farther or for having landed in a "special" place. Each leaf is suppose to go to the place appointed to it --- no leaf laments over where it lands. People should do the same; no comparisons should be made between who is where and who is doing what. Some will serve here, some will serve far from here --- that each serve according to God's design is the only thing that matters. One is NOT better than the other --- all are valuable to the Kingdom.
5 - Some leaves fall straight down with a thud and some leaves dance and twirl as they fall. Both are falling, both will hit the ground below, both will become crisp and dry and fade back into the earth beneath them. But --- the twirling leaf sends a certain thrill to those watching it fall --- it seems to dance with joy --- even in the fall. Which sort of falling leaf am i? Which are you? May we dance for our Father as we let loose and fly in His breeze.

6 - One of the 36 leaves fell and was carried by the breeze to a place far away from the others. Many leaves fell and seemed to accumulate in a corner of the lawn by a bush. There were many leaves there together; while the one remained a long distance away, alone. Silly i suppose, but my heart tugged for the single leaf carried far away. It could not enjoy the company of other leaves like itself. But then i noticed, the sun was shining so brightly where the single leaf lay and the breeze moved it gently on the ground --- it seemed to dance there all alone in the sun. With the Son - we are never alone.
7 - One leaf let loose from the limb but was caught in a mass of other leaves on its way down. The breeze seemed to blow hard on it and it wiggled fiercely, but it was so entangled in the other clinging leaves, it was caught and could not fly. Many other leaves fell and bounced off the mass of leaves, but the one was hopelessly caught. People can be that way, we can hope to, try to, want to "fly" on the breeze sent to us by our Lord --- but then find that something or someone is clinging to us so tightly we are held fast by their demands, their needs, their limitations. A clump of disobedient leaves feel better about themselves if they can add more leaves to their mass. Misery loves company. People can be the same; disobedience and selfishness feel better when surrounded by those who are wearing selfishness as well. A painful reality - but unavoidably true.
8 - The leaves that clung to the tree and would not fall were unpleasant to look at --- they were dry and crisp and formed an ugly patch of brown in the midst of all the colorful leaves around them. They were not where the Creator had designed for them to be ---- and it made the whole of the tree much less lovely to the eye.
9 - Some leaves fell all alone, most of them did. They let go and journeyed for the first time in their "lives" and they did so all alone. Some fell with two or three others but when they landed, the breezes usually carried them in different directions. God calls us out --- to be with Him ---- alone. He will allow us companionship to enjoy and encourage or even to teach and help guide us. But ultimately God wants to know --- will you fly solo with me? The leaves give us a glimpse at the solitary life our Lord calls each one of us to.

10 - The leaves that fell from the smaller, younger tree did not have nearly as far to fall; their trip was short and sweet. But the leaves that fell from the grandfather oak had a long distance to fall. They had grown on the wise limbs of wisdom off the mature trunk of truth. They had been prepared for the longer flight.
11. Some leaves will be picked up and noticed, admired for their beautiful color or perfect shape. Others will be piled high by rough rakes and burned --- never noticed or appreciated. Some leaves will enjoy the feel of children rolling about in them and throwing them on the heads of their friends. Is it because one leaf is actually more special than the others --- that it is "noticed" or played with? Are the piled and burned leaves any less special? Can one leaf "do" something to earn the right to be admired and played with by children? Isn't it true with people as well?
So often people try and "perform" a certain way or manipulate their positioning to be singled out and/or admired. God is the ONE who should author such things --- for then it is right and pure and honorable. People should think no more highly or lowly of someone based on their "position". We should respect the God who orchestrates and love one another equally. We are little more than leaves in these matters.
12 - Not one leaf grumbled or complained --- but i almost felt like i could hear them giggling and squealing with joy. Wouldn't it be sweet if the same were true for people? Makes me want to be more like a leaf.

13 - Since Autumn is just beginning in GA, these leaves are falling before their color comes --- they have become too brittle for lack of water and they have dried up on the limb before their time. People need to be "watered" too --- but with the Living Water. They are still people whether they are "watered" or not ---- just like the leaves are still leaves whether they dry up and fall early or not. But leaves have no control over the rainfall ---- dried up, crusty people do have a choice. It always shows up sooner or later ---- if a leaf doesn't get enough water. It always shows up sooner or later ---- if a person doesn't take in enough of God's Word.
14. As i watched the leaves falling --- the sky above them seemed so vast and powerful. The high breezes were carrying the clouds quickly across the blue and covering the sun from time to time. It was a visual of the greatness of God --- doing the mighty works of God --- as the tiny leaves did the one thing they had been appointed to do ---- to let loose and fly. Did the mighty skies even notice when one leaf fell? No would be the certain answer. But our great God, majestic and holy, certainly knows when we do.

It might seem woefully odd that so much can come from the simple act of leaves falling --- hopefully you've been tracking with me though.
Because --- when we listen for His still small voice ---- He will speak --- even through 36 falling leaves.

"The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets."   -Psalm 50:1

"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal."  -John 12:25(The Message)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Face to Face

"...God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him."
2 Corinthians 3:16-18

(God has stirred my heart to share the details of the night he "saved" me. There are so many who do not receive Him because they feel so overwhelmed with their unworthiness. I've talked with them, you may feel it too. So - i share the truth here of how He met me/how i met HIM -- He never forced me to be "good enough" -- He met me where i was. And the transformation slowly began. There are WAY too many "i"s in this posting---but in truth - to tell the story - they are unavoidable. - And the story of His grace MUST be told.)

On the night i asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Savior, i struggled, intensely. At the young age of 11, i had already given up on myself. It was beyond my understanding that God could even possibly like me, much less that he could really love me. The enemy of God, sometimes referred to as the accuser in God's Word, had done a number on this young soul, and i was convinced that i was no good.
I was drawn to the alter in that little country church --- out of fear. The thoughts of eternity in hell literally scared the h--- out of me and i wanted no part of it. So i timidly went to the altar and asked...
The big preacher who had frightened me soul deep into coming forward could no longer reach me with his words ---- i was too scared --- and too certain --- that God would not want me. It was a deep seated self-hatred that choked me as i knelt there. My parents had loved me, i lived in a safe, good home, i'd read the Bible school lessons and followed the rules (well most of them at least). But deep inside me, i was convinced i was worthless. Only the accuser can cause that in an eleven year old.
And so as the preacher tried to talk with me ---- and explain to me the simplicity of accepting Christ, my head could not receive what my heart was starving for --- silence dominated when he tried to lead me in prayer.
It was a holy struggle --- painful for a little girl --- the assignment was in place against me --- the accuser screaming at my soul --- "you are not wanted", "you know you're no good", "no one would want you if they really knew you", "you can't fool God", "if you ask, He will say no to you, and then everyone here will know, you are not wanted --- even by God". How does a little girl fight back against those sort of words --- spoken only in the spirit realm but bearing down like loud speakers on her heart.
My parents did not know how i felt about myself. After all - that was a part of the plan, right. The enemy would not want them to know --- for if they had --- they surely would have confronted his lies with words of loving truth. But much of the work of the enemy is done in secret - in silence - in isolation - in the dark. And so --- i lived pretending --- that i was just like every other little girl, hoping no one would know, that deep inside, i lived daily with the words  --- "i was not wanted --- even by God".
So this night as i knelt ---- i went silent.
There was a canyon between me ----- and this God who loved everyone else.
I remember the preacher asking someone else to pray with me, but i don't remember who they were or what they said --- i was numb and frozen in my fear of the ultimate rejection -- paralyzed at the thought of God pushing me away and exposing that i was "the unlovable one".
Then the preacher called for his wife to come and talk with me. She felt like a warm breeze when she came near me and without a word, i began to cry at her softness. She asked me if i would like to go and talk with her, she said she understood how i was feeling and she thought she could help me. Oh how --- how could she possibly have understood --- for i know -- i had sealed my lips and had told no one of the self-hatred that lived inside me. But with hope, i went with her.
She walked with me to a small room with Bible in hand. We sat down and she went to work on my soul. She asked me if i was scared ----- yes. She asked me if i was afraid of God ---- no. She asked me why i was so frightened ----- i choked on the words, they would not come out.
i remember how we just sat there in silence for a few moments; i finally looked up at her. And there was so much love and tenderness in her face, it was exactly what this scared little girl needed to see. She was not frustrated with me, she was not suspicious of me, she was not irritated with me, she just poured out unconditional, all consuming love on me ---- with her eyes.

She opened her Bible to several different passages --- she literally thumbed through her Bible --- and read different verses to me. But she changed them ---- in ways that kept their holiness completely in tact, but made God's Word leak into my frightened, self-condemned heart. She changed only the pronouns and names of people ---- and in their place ----- she put my name in those spaces --- in God's Word --- she dared to place me -- inside God's Word.
For the next few minutes she read ----
"The Lord is Donna's shepherd; Donna shall not be in want. He makes Donna lay down in green pastures, He leads her beside still waters. He restores Donnas' soul..." (Psalm 23:1-2)
"For God so loved Donna, that He gave His one and only Son..." (John 3:16a)
"'Because Donna loves me', says the Lord, 'I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name. Donna will call on me, and I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life I, God, will satisfy Donna and show her my salvation.'" (Psalm 91:14-16)

WHAT --- did she just say ---- "because Donna loves me, God says, HE WILL rescue her, He will protect her, He will hear her when she prays and answer her"?

I remember very clearly --- as her tender eyes looked through me ---- realizing in that moment ---- that God would save me because of how great HE was --- not because of how good or bad i was. My portion was nothing --- HIS portion was everything. It was ALL about His goodness --- and His goodness was so great --- that my "badness" could not effect it. He would love me --- because of His greatness --- and He would not withhold His love from me --- He couldn't --- He didn't care what i had or had not done --- HE saw me - and He loved me --- and i became HIS forever in that moment.

I do not remember her name, this servant of the most High God ---- but i know when i see her in Heaven, we both will remember ---- she served God well that night --- and she enabled a hurting little girl to crawl up into His lap.

She cried with me --- we prayed together ---- and the dark clouds inside me, blew away.

We walked back to the altar, she stood with me as we shared that i had accepted the Lord ---(inside i was whispering to myself -- I have accepted His love --- I am lovable in God's eyes -- I am lovable to God --- I am loved --- by God).

The whole church came around and shook my hand --- such a sweet way of celebrating together. I thought i would pop from the joy inside.

Then afterward, as everyone mingled and began to leave, dear Mrs. Edith, the lady who gave me my first glimpse at worship (not just singing --- but real worship) leaned down and whispered in my ear, "You are glowing donna, you are glowing with my Lord. I know you have been touched by my Father, never forget, never doubt, you --- are --- His".

Later, during my teenage years and college days, when those "doubts" came and i was tempted to wonder --- "am i really His, did He really save me?" I would remember Mrs. Edith's concrete words ---- "never doubt, you are HIS".

Those two ladies ---- did a mighty work of God ---- for a little eleven year old girl who was being devoured by the one who acts like a roaring lion. They shut the lion's mouth just as surely as if it were one of the lions in the den with Daniel (Daniel 6).
And they gave me the ability to ----
believe God was big enough and beautiful enough to love --- even me ...

My gift to you ----
do the same for yourself that the preacher's wife did for me ---
open God's word --- put your name in the middle of it --- and feel --- His --- love -- for ---YOU.

Photos taken by Steve and Maggie in northern Kenya and central Kenya delivering and reading Bibles with people in their language --- Swahili, Turkana, and English. "Helping" them put their names in the middle of God's Word.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Name is Beatrice...

Her eight words still visit me almost everyday ---- they changed all the unspoken rules of life for me.

Beatrice is her name.
She lived through her own personal 9/11 ---- with no media coverage and no emergency rescue teams dispatched. She suffered unimaginable pain and loss at the hands of terrorists -- in a place where there are no roads leading in and no roads leading out. No hi-jacked planes were used ---- her attackers chose machetes and axes instead.

As she stood before me, sharing her story --- something broke free inside of me --- and the moments moving forward mattered in a whole new way.

Before i share her eight life-changing words ---- i'll honor her by telling her story. You see, she wants her story to be told, she wants it to matter.
It needs to matter.
It does.

She was married and had mothered several children. Living in a remote village somewhere in northern Uganda, she had never seen the world beyond the path that led to the river where she gathered water. She knew her native language and the faces of those she shared life with ---- nothing else mattered --- only what was a part of her tree-lined, sky covered, dirt floor world. She could not read or write. She knew nothing of the places beyond her small world.
Her words conveyed she was happy in her village world, her husband was a good man who cared for his family and she deeply loved her children. You could understand the depth of her love for them more from the look in her eye as she spoke of them --- than from her words. When speaking across two languages --- the eyes tell more than the words. Word can deceive --- but not the eyes. She had held her treasures just as dearly as i hold mine. God help her.
One day rebels came upon their peaceful village and brought a form of hell with them. The men of the village were quickly killed ---- for the women and children the end came more slowly.
I hesitate to type what she shared next --- but to honor Beatrice i will.
Some of her children ran and hid. Some of her children were violated in front of her eyes as she was forced to watch. Then their nightmare ended with the blows of the pangas (machetes). But Beatrice was forced to keep breathing the air that had been filled with their screams. God help her.
The women who had shared life with Beatrice in their peaceful village all endured the same ---- and then alongside her, they were stripped of their clothing, beaten, and raped. Then after some time they were tied together and marched through the jungle. They were taken far from their "home"--- and marched to places they had never seen. They were brutalized along the way --- with only a rope around their wrists and each other. Oh God...
Beatrice gave the details of time and events that followed --- but my mind was numb -- i can not remember them all. I was holding my breath wondering how God could bring "beauty from her ashes". But i knew He had --- because she stood in front of me --- and she glowed of His goodness. Only God could do that.
Several days after her nightmare began, the men-monsters decided the women were no longer of use to them they began killing the women. Not willing to "waste a bullet", they used pangas and axes instead. So Beatrice watched as other women were cut down around her. She knelt down and waited. An ax head was sunk into her skull and she hoped for death to come swiftly.

What was happening in the spirit realm around her? How many angels were fighting for her? For surely an unseen battle was raging ---- because she did not die.

She shared that the next day she woke up, in much, much pain. She would not stand or move quickly because of the intense pain she felt radiating from her head and traveling throughout her entire body. But she could open her eyes and began to realize, no one else survived. She lay surrounded by her "sisters of suffering". She envied them --- their eyes were still closed. But she knew wild animals would soon come to devour them and if she did not act quickly, she would be eaten alive. Her mind was fixated on her children, the ones who had hidden from the monsters. During the previous days of grueling marching, she had kept her mind focused on her children. Hoping they were alive, hoping they had not been found. She was frightened for them --- they were little ones --- in the wood alone --- where monster-men marched.
She untied herself from her fallen friends and began crawling. She crawled a long distance, putting as much space as she could between herself and those soon to be consumed --- and then collapsed. A kind family found her and brought her broken, naked, bloody body to their hut. When Beatrice woke the next time, she was in a safe hut, being cared for by a women with kind eyes and gentle hands. The family spoke a different language so communication was strained, but they were kind and Beatrice was safe.
For the next many months (over a year), Beatrice was nursed by this kind women and provided for by this kind man. The children in the home made her ache for her own, but they slowly brought the aroma of hope back into Beatrice's heart, their laughter helped her begin to heal in the silent places of her soul.
Over time, Beatrice began to understand bits of their language and they began to communicate with each other. They asked where she was from --- and Beatrice realized, she had never left her village home so she had no way of knowing how to get back to it. She could not tell them where she was "from" because she had never dreamed she would need to find her way back there -- she had never planned to leave.  The countryside here looked vastly different from her home --- she had been forced to march for days with no food. She could not have retraced her steps if her life depended on it. Oh how she was grieved ---- for she knew ---- her childrens' lives might very well depend on her remembering. But she could not.
She had lived in one place all her life ----- and she could not find her way back there.
The name she used to identify her village ---- was in a different language than this families. It was as if ----- her home ----- had sunk into the ground along with the blood of those she had loved. Oh God...

The family she had come to love, began telling her of a mighty God who had saved her and loved her and had chosen "life" for her. They told her of this One who had Created everything around her and in her. They shared with her about this God's Son, who walked as a man on this dirt covered earth because He wanted to share the truth of His Father's love with those who were lost and hurting. She wondered, "if there is such a God of love --- where had he been during the nightmare?" The family explained that the good God had an enemy who was not a god ---- but who caused such pain and suffering. Beatrice shared with us --- that she knew there must be a good God, because of the way this family lived and loved and cared for her. But, she was not willing to accept this God they spoke of because of the pain he had allowed.
She could not stop thinking of her children, they were in her dreams, when she ate she wondered if they were eating, when she slept she wondered where they were laying their heads. Her mother's heart was certain they were alive. It was the hope she clung to.
After many months, the family took her to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. They had heard that many refugees from northern Uganda had made there way to the capital in hopes of being reunited with lost loved ones.  It was Beatrice's only hope of finding her children. The family prayed for her, Beatrice was single-minded --- she had to find her children. She could no longer live in the peaceful hut of her rescuers, and wonder if her children were alive or safe or hungry or hurting. She would rather die trying to find them than live in comfort and wonder.
She lived on the streets of Kampala. She searched daily for her little ones. Many, MANY children roamed the streets and ate from garbage, but years passed and the faces of those she had carried inside her womb were not the faces she found on the streets around her. Those were dark days for her. The God she had been told of ---- surely was a mean God, she thought ---- if he even existed at all.
She began to do whatever was needed for food. She engaged in the oldest profession of ill repute and wrapped her world in decay.
Years passed - dirty, desperate, damned years of pain and loneliness.

Then one day ---- as if in a dream ---- she saw two filthy, pitiful children who had the glimmer of her home in their eyes. She ran to them, and after moments of breath-holding silence --- they remembered her and she knew fully --- they were her treasured ones. She had found them - they had survived. They thought she was a ghost at first - they had seen what had happened to her -- they had come to the city because they felt sure all that had been theirs had been killed. But as she talked to them and touched them, hugged them and held them --- they realized she was real --- and they had been found. Oh God...

She lived with her children then -- on the streets -- and continued to do whatever she had to do to feed them. There were no other options. There was no other choice. She did what she had to do. Period.

Then one day a lady approached her and said she had been watching her for days. She knew she was caring for two children and she asked about the scar that traveled from the top of her head to the top of her neck. Beatrice shared her story as the women shared food with them. The woman asked her if she would like to come work for her to earn money and live in a home off the streets. She explained that Beatrice could make paper beads and be paid for her labor --- and her children would be able to have food everyday and a safe, peaceful place to live.
Beatrice agreed.

She came to live at the ministry of "Caring Hands". She made paper beads and jewelry and cared for her children. In time ---- the lady who had rescued her from the streets shared with Beatrice that there was a God who loved her. This same God --- was showing himself to her again --- and she could feel the same peace around this woman as she had felt around the family who cared for her in the far away village to the north. This woman had the same kindness in her eyes.
Beatrice realized, that since her nightmare had begun, the only two safe places she had known --- had both spoken of this good God who loved her.
And so --- she began to listen ---- she began to "hear".

Beatrice ---- now has a small, safe home ---- a job she loves ---- and two healthy, happy children attending school and sleeping in her arms every night.
The evil one ----- is evil.

But GOD is a good, good God.

Beatrice knows the rawness of evil ---- and she knows the goodness of God.
Beatrice shared this story with me as i visited her in Uganda.

Before she told her story of pain and suffering and then rescue and salvation ----- her first words to me were the same words she ended her story with ---- these eight words --- that changed my world ----

"I am Beatrice, ------  much loved daughter of the most High God."

If Beatrice can proclaim this with a twinkle in her eye and a soft smile on her lovely face ----- shouldn't we echo her words?
i had never known the feel of a panga or an ax on my skin. i had lived a life of love and care. My loved ones had not been brutalized and taken from me and i had never known one night of hunger. Yet --- i had never thought of myself in this beautiful, truthful, God-glorifying way.

For too many of us ---- it's either too hot or too cold ---- too much or too little --- to fast or too slow --- we complain because we have to go to work or we complain because we have to stay at home --- we are too busy or we are too bored ---- we grumble over having to cook dinner or we complain that the steak on our plate is over-cooked...
Imagine a week of NO complaints ---- no negative words ---- no seeing the glass half full.
And instead --- repeat the words over and over again ---- I am a much loved daughter of the most High God. (or much loved son of the most High God). And think of Beatrice. Let your heart and mind visit her world so far away.
She is thrilled to go to work everyday and rejoices that her children have a school to walk to. She works long hours and is ecstatic to then walk to the market to prepare food for her children each night. She doesn't have a closet -- but she does have clothes on her back. She lays down at night with two of her children beside her --- under a roof --- surrounded by safe walls and a locked door. She runs her finger along the 10 inch scar on her head and remembers ----- not so much the evil that was done to her ---- but instead --- she remembers the good God who saved her. She seems to glow as she speaks of the ONE who brought beauty from the ashes of her life ---- and humbly whispers ---

I am a much loved daughter of the most High God.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
   'For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 
Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

"and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."

Isaiah 61:3

Photos taken in Uganda

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Through the simple --- He speaks...

It happens every afternoon beginning around 4:30 --- pure joy shows up and splashes around in our kitchen garden.

God makes every part of it ---- no person could bring it about.
He made the birds that bathe
in the water He made, 
over the flowers He created, 
under the sky He formed, 
surrounded by the trees He grew. 

Without God NONE of it would be.

It has not been soiled by mans attempts to make it "better".

The baby blue birds that hatched in the birdhouse on the fencepost across the road from our front porch --- they speak to me of God. Not a sound comes from them --- but they preach.

The joy they have in a puddle of water ---- is indescribable. 
It makes me pause daily and be reminded --- 
greatest joys come from simple things. 

The world tries to demand that peace and joy and contentment come with success and privilege, recognition among men and full bank accounts.
But truth be told ----
---most people who have tasted "success" find themselves looking for significance --- and if they find it, they find it in God.
---many people who live in arenas of privilege, speak sadly of their intense loneliness - not knowing who is there for them or who just wants a piece of them.
---countless people who are widely recognized and hold positions of authority find themselves appreciated by a few, pursued by some, hated by many, and ridiculed no matter what they do.
---there is no such thing as a full bank account - there is no cap - no top - no limit --- the implication is - there is never quite enough -- i'm reminded of the man whose storehouses were full, so he built larger store houses, indulged in life, and died that very night. (Luke 12:16-21)

But God, in His wonderful ways of "speaking" to us ---- is continually reminding us ---- watch the birds, look at the flowers, count the sunrises, feel my rains. I am the way, the truth, and the life ---- I will meet your needs and show you the path I have for you.

The birds do not sit and wait to be served the cool waters of the birdbath or the seeds they find on the ground. They are busy, working, watching, attentive, ready.  From these tiny winged jewels, we can learn much.

The bathing birds preach it every afternoon ---- without a word...
They are the picture of joy.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26

"He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

“I am the way and the truth and the life." John 14:6

"Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6 

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Photos taken by Maggie in our kitchen garden.