Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why call it Christmas???

Christmas... we call it Christmas... why?

It's a question we might not stop to ask. We might think we know. We might not care.
But for a lover of words-used-well, it's a normal wondering of my mind.

Turns out, there are quite a few answers, depending on who you ask.
Some say the word Christmas is a shortened representation of Christ's Mass, a practice of the Catholic church.
And what of those who shorten it completely and rather than write Christmas, they only put the energy forth to write Xmas? For years it has frustrated me to see this shortcut. For if we're going to cut anything short in the word it certainly should not be the "Christ" part. At 54 years of age, i've finally learned the reason behind this practice. The X in "Xmas" is the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter of the name "Christ" in that language.
For decades it's rubbed-my-fur-wrong when someone "left out Christ" in the writing of Christmas by shortening it to Xmas. Thank goodness for a quick internet search that has brought a digestible answer to that confusion.
Yesterday i sat in church and heard yet another sharing of the reason we celebrate the season. It's the same wonderful story ----- it does not change ----- it's worth celebrating.
But goodness knows without the Christ part, it would simple be a man-made-holiday.

Christmas is, as someone has said, when God came down the stairs of Heaven with a baby in his arms.
Could we just let that image settle in our minds, soften our souls, and set a right pace for the season?

Whether we know the true origin of the word, or write it in full (that's my camp) or shorten it with the Greek sign for Christ, X, there's so much more to ponder in the fullness of the word itself.

So i've played with it a bit, as i re-share a writing i posted two Christmas's ago.

In truth, we call it Christmas because -- when Christ was born so much happened.
How could that manger have held it all?

Christ  --- m _____  a ______  s _______

Christ ...meets all suffering
...masters all storms
...merges all saints
...mashes all stubbornness
...mends all sufferers
...makes all see
...meets all sinners
...magnifies all sanctity
...maintains all sanity
...maximizes all sacrifice
...memorizes all souls
...maneuvers all sciences
...matures all seasons
...materializes all sanctification
...merits all soldiers
...meanders among sinners
...manages all sheep
...mentors all shepherds
...models all scripture
...motivates all sunrises
...masters all sunsets
...mingles among survivors
...moans amidst sufferers
...mutilates all strongholds
...mocks all sorcery
...matures all seekers
...marinates all stonehearts
...manufactures all salvation
...matches all smiles
...maintains all stars
...mandates all salvation
...measures all sadness
...memorizes all souls
...mothers all sanctuaries
...molds all strength
...makes all sufficient
...models all submission
...melts all self-sufficiency
...mitigates all stings
...mocks all schemers
...moves all seas
...mystifies all skeptics
...motivates all simplicity
...maintains all shorelines
...monitors all secrets
...muddles all schemes
...makes a solution

Christmas, why call it Christmas ?
----- what better name could there be?
For it is the way God chose to show the world that
Christ – makes – aSavior.

Merry CHRIST – m – a – s!!!!!

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Thursday, December 18, 2014

She's afraid of the truth today... but

She's too afraid to know, she's scared of the truth today.
We sat in the doctor's office and she shrank.

She's a thirty-two year old momma who's given birth to five and raised them without the man who should have been caring for them all.
In just 3 decades of living, she's seen too many battlefields where no medals are given for valor and no purple hearts awarded for bravery and courage. But the first day I met her the One who made her walked her right into my heart, and I knew, she was a much loved daughter.
Her name is Carol.
Tall and slim with round, soft eyes, I look at her and think, if you lived in another country, you'd be called beautiful. But here, she's just one of the many who have been wounded and are lost in the sea of dark skinned lovelies trying to care for their children.
She's sick... very sick.
Her cough would clear the room in more sterile, clean places. And she hurts each time one comes.
On her throat is a growth, bigger than it was when I met her, but small enough to cover with a scarf. And that's what she did in the beginning. Now she feels me as a sister and doesn't work so hard to hide what is less than perfect.
During my 42 day visit back home in America, she came to my mind each and every day, and so prayers for her came quickly each morning. The One who loves her most talked of her often.
After my return to Kitale, I went to visit her. Two of her beautiful daughters were outside, sitting on wooden stumps beside ash covered ground. It's their kitchen and dining room, under an old, scarred fig tree, where they cook and take ugali and githeri and kenyan tea. 

Eyes adjusted to darkness entering her one room hut. A twin bed, a wooden coffee table, the wooden frame of an old couch with cushions so old the 4 inch foam had shrunk to one inch. A big, old purse hung from the corner of her bed holding her treasures. No dresser or side table or chest of drawer, just that old purse and 3 bags slid neatly under her one bed. The mud walls had been smeared smooth and painted white. Now, red dust lay on the uneven places and it had a mysterious, enchanting sort of look to it and I thought to myself, “back home”, we work to age our furniture and weather our bricks and lumber to give it a used, mysteriously old look. Here, it's real------ oh what a strange world it is.
With eyes adjusted, I saw her smile and looked into her eyes, and I repented again for all my selfish ways as she shared of the weeks past while I had been away.
The growth on her throat had swelled and had temporarily taken her voice away, leaving her with a sore throat. Then the fever had come. A week later the cough began and the next week she was too weak to rise from her tiny bed.
Each night her two youngest daughters curl into the tiny twin bed beside their sick mum, while the oldest lays on the barely-there-cushioned-rock-hard couch. All together in this one room with dusty, dirt floors and two tiny window openings. To open the “window”, you swing the little wooden door open, there is no glass or even screen. But even in this little, dark room, there was a goodness found.

Kind greetings were followed by words that opened up the Heavens into this little dirt room.
She told me how very sick she had been and how very alone she had felt. How she had looked at her girls and knew she had no way to stop the death-beast walking towards her door. How she'd prayed and begged the only One who could save her, and wondered at why no Savior came. But instead the liar moved in and hope moved out ---- or so it had seemed.
She had become angry with God. Very angry. She had railed against him and wept in wails.
She felt fully abandoned and in the end could no longer even remember the promises she had clung to from His Word.

Then the ladies from our Bible study had come to visit her on her worst day. They had come with tea and love, prayers and hope. They had laid their work-worn hands on her exhausted shoulders and prayed long. And the liar shrank.
We prayed again on this visit, just four days after the others had prayed, her beautiful daughters joined us today.
The next day, oranges were delivered and taken. Strengthening the body and letting the mind and heart feel love flow in those Vitamin C filled juices. She needed a day of nutrition and Vitamins before even trying to rise from her bed.
By the next morning at 9:00 I found her dressed and sitting on her bed, she knew I was coming, we were going to the hospital. We moved slowly through the day as doctors examined her, gave shots, x-rays and ultrasounds completed, blood-work drawn, and finally the results. 

It was pneumonia, not TB (oh thank you God!). But still, it was serious.
She has a growth on her thyroid gland, a cyst, not thought to be cancerous, but it has to go, it must be removed.
Then the doctor spoke privately with me. Asking me to do what I could to encourage Carol to be tested for HIV. She had dropped her head when offered the test, fear had been thick in the air as she nodded and whispered, “Hapana”. (no in Swahili)
An abusive, unfaithful husband had abandoned her years ago, she had known it was possible, but she did not want to meet that unwanted intruder face to face, she knew he would bring words of death.

Meds were prescribed and given.
She would spend two weeks recovering and then return to the hospital for surgery to remove the cyst.

Carol was exhausted, helping her to the Lori-car, we sat and talked inside.
I explained everything to her slowly and carefully. She had not understood all that had been said. I was taken back to when my little ones had been sick and we'd gone to the doctor and we'd get to the car afterwards and i'd tell them, in children terms, what had just been said in doctor words. She was understanding now, and her shoulders were beginning to relax.
“You will have this surgery dear Carol, God has brought you this far. He has heard your prayers and you will be cared for so you can live and love your girls for many more days.” She dropped her head and wiped her eyes. “But Carol, I must ask you to pray long about something.”
We talked about HIV and the truth about the virus.
“The only way to fight it is to know if it is hiding inside.”
Just like the cyst, if we ignore it and look the other way, it will grow and damage the healthy body parts around it and eventually what could have been taken care of earlier will bring an early death if left unchecked.
She said, “i'm just too afraid to know the truth... if I have it shame will kill me before it does.”
We talked long. Tears laced with words, and prayers covered it all.
“Carol, God's Word says, 'the Truth will set you free'. It is the liar, the one who speaks lies to us that tells you to hide from the Truth -----the Truth of our Father's love and the truth of every other thing. Truth lives in the light, in the places where we can see. Lies lurk in the darkness, those places where we can't see and we're scared of what might be hidden in the corners.”
She began to hear.
“On this matter dear Carol, if you let the liar win, it could kill you. But the Truth will save your life.”

i've let my mind sit with it all --- since my time with Carol in the car ---
Knowing the Truth saves us ---- but if the liar wins, it kills us.
It's true in matters of health.
It's true in matters of the soul.
It's true in our marriages, our homes, our hearts, our minds, our friendships, our work.
In our day to day thoughts ---- the truth might be painful to hear, but it is the only way to life.
We might be more comfortable to wrap ourselves in the tattered blanket of familiarity, thinking, we'd rather hold on to what we have known, even if it is a lie, than lay it down and try and get comfortable in the scratchy, new, unsoftened blanket of truth. But the wrap of Truth has no holes, it's complete, and it can shield us from the hard winds of destruction that come at the end of the lie.

As i've prayed for Carol, it's settled so deeply inside, speak the truth in love ... the Truth will set you free ... surely you (God) desire truth in the inner parts... speak truth to each other... He will guide you into all truth...
Ephesians 4:15, John 8:32, Psalm 51:6, Zechariah 8:16, John 16:13

and what happens, really, when we do not cling to what is true?
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things, rather than the Creator --- ”
Romans 1:25
Exchanged the truth for a lie – and served created things rather than the Creator --- things like familiarity in what we can see and what we think is the right thing to do and who is around us (our children perhaps) and what we eat or where we sleep or … too many things can too silently slide into a place of importance ---- a place of “worship” in our lives. We push back and say, no, i'm not worshipping it --- but when it prevails over the Creator and what HE SAYS --- it has taken His place of worship in our lives. And He is clear on this point ---- He will not share His throne.

Oh God helps us understand where we have worshipped created things rather than You.
God's words here are speaking of the Truth of our souls, but it is also true for the truth of everything.

Sometimes we realize ----- we do not know the truth of a matter---- and we are too scared to face the light that will reveal that truth. (fear from the liar is winning in those moments)
Sometimes we don't even know we are being deceived. We think we are right and all is well. Only the Word of God will open our eyes to know if we are truly, really, honestly walking in the light.
If we don't sit with and in His Word ----- we are easily deceived.
And the greatest victory of the enemy is keeping eyes so accustomed to the darkness, they don't even realize what they are “seeing” is only shadows and shades of dark.

For Carol, there are medications that can help her fight the virus. Many who might have died years ago, have lived long, because of the meds (ARVs) now available. Years ago, an American president pressed to alot millions of dollars to pay for ARVs to be made available for FREE to Kenyans unable to pay for them. IF Carol is positive, she can receive the needed medications for free, at the district hospital just a mile from her one room home. (Thank you America!!!)
Fear is the barrier that wants to keep her in the dark ------ and make her daughters orphans.

I'm praying.
God is working.
The lamp of Truth is ready to shine.

What blessed, blessed, blessed kids we are ----- our Abba wants truth in our lives.
He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life... (John 14:6)

And the beauty of the Body of Christ (the children of the Father) came shining through so brightly I covered my face with my hands and tears rolled down...
Knowing the cost of the surgery was beyond what we readily had in hand, I sent an email message to over 400 dear ones --- asking for help for Carol.
I prayed over the words, asking the One, before I hit send to ask the many.
Then I went for a walk with my youngest son. As the sunset, we talked of his world and while listening closely to his every word, I also held my asking cup up to the Father on behalf of the email I knew many would be receiving.
Our walk ended (what a blessed momma I am to get to walk beside my son), and I went to my email just to confirm it had actually gone out. And within that short hour, 4 people had already responded... 1 saying they would cover the entire cost of the surgery... (my heart froze)... and 2 giving half of what was needed (tears gushed)... and 2 more giving $50 and $75 to be a part of what God was doing. I hit the floor and thanked the One who moves the hearts of His children.
Then quickly sent another email to let everyone know ---- IT WAS DONE!
I sent emails to try and stop others already trying to give as well (one willing to pay the full amount needed as well) ---- no more money was needed, but the beautiful generosity of love was flowing strong. More gifts came, another $15, then $200, then $100, like a strong flowing river the love would not be stopped quickly.
Oh my heart... how beautiful are His kids.

So now ----
Carol's surgery is funded not just with the amount needed -------
but it is funded for over double of what is needed!

And I remembered --- there is a verse about God giving a double portion --- grabbing my Bible, it was quickly found ----
“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7

Oh God ---
for the woman who lives on the dirt floor and sleeps in a tiny bed with children piled on top of her, for the one who shrinks from the shame that the truth might bring, but is praying and asking for courage to know, for the dark skinned beauty you see and love and have your eye on ---- your Holy Word speaks today just as it did through Isaiah in the 8th century before your sent your son...

...instead of your shame Carol, you will receive a double portion...
and instead of disgrace Carol, you will rejoice in your inheritance... you will receive a double portion in your land... and Carol, I, God, will give you everlasting joy.

And “i delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.”
Isaiah 61:10a

The One who calls us into the Light of Truth ----- is the God of a double portion.

Carol is in front of Maggie and Ray, wearing the black and white wrap (covering the cyst). Beside her is Eve (middle) and Matilda (left) -- this was taken August 22nd after Bible Study, we were headed back home and giving lifts to the ladies.
Thank you in advance for praying for Carol --- and thank you to those who shocked us all with your quick, beautiful response to the need of one who is surely among “the least of these”.
Oh --- thank you so!

I hope you feel His great smile over you – it is surely there.

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Friday, November 21, 2014

Was she found with her hands wide open?...

I was alone, but not really.
All around me couples walked together or people walked their dogs or groups whizzed by on their bikes. But nothing was breathing beside me. We can feel alone when we are the only one using the air around us.
So I walked long. Sand shifted under my treads, but it held fast, no sinking today.
The greatness of the Atlantic to my left, a row of beach houses to my right, the setting sun before me, and all the air one girl could need around me. I talked to the One who is always in those silent, air-filled places and I listened more.

Just days before i'd shared this same stretch of sandy beach with girlfriends all around. We'd biked miles together, giggling like girls, nothing to do but ride. Laughing, lovely, vibrant ladies --- prayer warriors they are --- fierce on the battlefield when arrows are flying --- peaceful joys in my life. They represent a great army of others. But we women don't usually think of ourselves as warriors do we?

We give birth, nurse life, tend wounds, and love deep.
We cook dinner, read stories, cuddle cryers, and scrub away the dirt of life.
We teach others what we've learned, and then let go of them so they can enjoy all they know.
Our very bodies are allowed to produce life, feed it, hold it, and grow it.
Then release it … and we do.
Any woman who can rise to that order ------ is a lovely, soft, effective warrior – she can cook dinner while she's sharpening her sword.
Her arsenal is found tucked between thin pages.
She doesn't need guns or knives, bullets or arrows.
She clings to the sword her Father said she could use.
These were my thoughts as I walked the shoreline.
Lost in thought and prayer --- and positioning myself to be “still” and listen for His more, I meandered alone between the incoming tide and the ribbon of water still lingering from morning's high tide. A visual of my aloneness with my Lord, water shielded me on both sides, the world could not come too near.
All that surrounded me had been authored by the One who was with me.
One can feel like royalty in those places.
Trees blocked the view of houses in the distance. No boats could be found on the water.
I was truly alone in the middle of His Stuff.
And the waters rolled in slowly, closing more and more off from me.

Ahead the tide had finally broken over the sandy belt I walked on, and the fresh ocean waters began renewing the stale waters of the trapped tide pools. My pathway closed.
A perfect visual of our lives.

I pressed on until my toe could touch the last dry ripple of sandy beach before the incoming tide covered it over. Turning quickly then I changed course, heading back where I had just come from.
Where I had been walking, the place I had thought was my way, closed before me and would no longer allow me safe passage.
Increasing my pace, I walked with purpose, not wanting the waters to catch me. But I looked behind me just in time to see the waves sweep over the place where I had been.
If I had stubbornly remained there ---- I would have been in trouble.
The waters came rushing in as if they were on assignment and they brought rip tides with them, their current was fierce.

What a picture of my life...
My path had seemed right for all those years, and for all those years it had been. Then, the tide changed, the path began to close, God was insistent on showing me the purpose He created me for, He would not let me miss the clarity of His call.
Many have asked me, “How do you know for sure when God is calling you?”
This walk on the beach is a visual picture of the answer to that question.
God doesn't carelessly let us “miss” what HE is calling us to do.
He doesn't play charades with us. He doesn't give us clues and hope we can guess what He's saying. He makes it clear. Undeniably clear. Moses couldn't say the bush was not burning. Jonah couldn't say the fish was not real. God makes it clear.
There are great mysteries that surround God's ways ---- His ways are not our ways and they never will be. He is God, we are not. We never will be, never could be, never should try to be. It's a big movement in this broken world now, people thinking they are their own god... but they aren't. They'll realize it too, when the only faithful One remains, and He reaches out His great hand to them. Oh He is good...

God's clarity in our lives is not a mystery. I use to think it was, I was wrong.
He opened the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through, and He closed it on those who pursued them.
He put a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to guide them through the desert.
God is clear in His communications to His kids. But He does sometimes wait until we are ready to actually listen before He will speak. He chooses when He speaks, and we must wait until He does. Patience, it grows in those waiting fields.

So how can we know when God is guiding us this way or that way?
How can we make sense of it when the course of our life seems to change right before our eyes?

We must be willing to pause...
pause long enough for the dust to settle, be still, ask Him, and wait...
We must be willing to wait on the Lord. Just as He has been willing to wait on us.

The problem is not that God no longer speaks ------ the problem is that we don't take the needed time to listen.

When we don't pause and respect that God is God and He will speak when He knows we are ready, we try and press the matter, we want to move ahead and make something happen. Then we find ourselves in the middle of swirling tidal waters pressing all around us with swift currents. We thought... but then... and now... and we are forced to a place of stillness that doesn't feel good. And we cry out, “Where are you God?!”
We blame Him for where we are, when where we are was not His doing.

My feet were set on a good path back on Mockingbird Road. I loved that path, it was sweet and simple and all I had dreamed of for our growing old days. The front porch swing was set in place for our old age years.
But slowly, ever so slowly, like advancing tide waters, that life seemed to close off from me.
My eyes could see that the way ahead was no longer ahead of me if I remained where I had always been.
So I stopped. We paused long. We asked. All the while the waters kept closing in on our plans for our future.
And He answered.
Then we knew.
We could ignore His answer and press ahead with our plans or we could change our course and obey.
The former would have brought tide waters swirling around us, for the Creator of the universe will not be ignored easily.
The latter would break us of ourselves and fill us with more of Him.
And there's a sweetness in that filling. ----- Perhaps it's what we are actually trying to get when we over buy, over eat, over plan, over control, over build, over work, over speak, over perform...
We know there is “more” --- but we get confused when trying to face the reality --- that the MORE we crave is found in the laying down of ourselves and the taking up of HIM. “He must increase, I must decrease” is how John puts it. (3:30)

But as for me and my Steve, we turned and obeyed and a new path opened before us.
Wisdom says, “don't look back, keep pressing on toward the goal you are called to”. But, I confess, i've looked back in my nostalgia. Just as I looked back to see the tidal waters swirling over the sandy shore. This trip home has forced me to walk the same pathways I use to walk before... but the tidal waters have changed the way they feel under my feet. And if I linger too long, my feet will get wet.

How frightening it would be to try and force my feet back on the old familiar pathway.
His mighty waters would surely wash me completely away.

Walking back on the shore line, the air around me seemed electric. There was an eagerness to walk in the way that had opened up for me. A silent pressing came from behind. And joy, real joy was present. She whispered, “Just look how much your Father loves you, He gives you a place to walk where the waters can not come near you.” There is joy and peace in obeying.
But as we obey, we can not fool ourselves into thinking we can have it our way.
We can't author a spec of it.
And that's the wall where too many children fall.

We want to have at least a degree of what we want.
We might be willing to give up some of what we want --- our plans, our dreams, our goals, our desires.
But when it comes to laying it ALL down, we shrink at the thought of having no control, no say, no input, no power.
But the definition of surrender is ---- “to abandon oneself entirely”, “to give in to”, “to give up or hand over”.
And when Jesus died on that cross, his hand was open ---- HE SURRENDERED ALL.

When God calls us to the MORE He created us for, we must surrender before we can fully obey.
That's the wall.

The waves come in on our plans, they wash away the space we would have filled if we had controlled them. They clear the way for another to walk there, as they also change the course of our safe passage.

Coming home has shown me much.

My old pathway has washed away. But there is a new one in its place. And I know I didn't build it.
My family is still my family. And they still love me sweetly. But they don't need me the way I use to think they did. God provides.
My friends are still my friends --- the ones that remained faithful still walk beside me even though the course of the pathway has changed completely. It's not the path that holds us steady, it's the heart.
My Father is still here too, and there, and everywhere. He's bigger and better and stronger and more faithful than my old path could have ever completely seen.

I reveled in the realization of it all as the waters closed in behind me and the waves sang steadily beside me.

I was alone... but not really.

Then as I watched the sun fading and turned to leave the beach, an old horse-shoe-crab shell caught my eye. Something whispered in my soul, calling me to pause and listen.
I knelt down beside the old shell and it came flooding into my heart... “someday you'll be just like me, you'll die too. All you do now will be added to the great efforts of the many who have obeyed the One who made us all. There will come a day when you won't be able to walk any path, not even the path He made you for. So choose carefully now, walk the right path while you can. Your days are numbered, they were before you were born. So your last one is already known in the Heavenlies. It will come and you'll be done. Your ride will end, you will come to the day when you'll have your last chance to obey, and it will be then that you'll be more thankful than ever, that you did. You chose the right path. And then, you'll be still... and wait... to go home. And whether you walked perfectly won't matter a smidgen. If you pleased others or disappointed them, won't matter a mite. The topic of conversation when you open your eyes above will be --- where was she found walking... did she stay true to the course... did she surrender and obey... was she found in the place He made her for... were her hands open??”

I sat by the old shell of the silent horse-shoe crab and heard the laughter of my girlfriends from the day before. I imagined the chubby feet of the three little ones I have loved and released running on sandy beaches between their daddy and me. I longed for the man my soul fits perfectly beside. And I looked at my feet.
Oh Lord... do what you must... but don't let my skin covered bones get in the way... place me soundly where You choose... use me up just like this old shell here... let's get the most out of this little vapor that I am... thank you for grace... thank you for your patient mercies every morning... may I be found walking and loving and serving and living on the path of your choosing... when you give me that last chance at obedience... leaving it all on the path... i'll finally come home with hands well practiced in being ---- open.

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I know this looks dangerous... but... it's really not.

Still laughing over that man of mine's words...
We're headed down one of Kenya's many treacherous roads when the black fumes boiling out the tailpipe of the slow moving truck in front of us presses us to either pass or suffocate. Then out of no where an eighteen wheeler moving far too fast for the weight it's carrying passes the car headed in our direction. And within seconds, we find ourselves barreling head-on towards the mass of metal surely 10 times our size. My favorite fella' then calmly says, “Honey, I know this looks dangerous... (as I hold my breath and grab the handgrip in front of me)... but... it's really not.”
Cool and calm ---- he smiles and maneuvers our Lori-car masterfully, tucking us securely in the safety of our lane with seconds to spare.
The intensity of the moment followed by the desired result ( safe passage) caused us both to erupt into boisterous laughter. That nervous kind of JOY laughter that comes when air flows back into previously emptied lungs.
And I repeated his words back to him over and over again as the madness of the drive on these unruly, hole-filled, donkey/sheep/goat/cow framed roads continued.
We've learned to laugh.
We've also learned to drive in new ways. (Very careful, defensive ways.)
You have to.
And, we pray more than ever before.
Truthfully, it is dangerous to drive on these raucous, unruly Kenyan roads.
But when he said, “I know this looks dangerous... but... it's really not,” it sent my mind on a journey of its own.

We waited at the bottom of the escalator, behind the two ladies and three little girls. Unsure of why they were hesitating, we inched closer. The ladies were talking in swift swahili trying to encourage the little ones to step onto the moving stairs, but the girls were terrified. And I thought to myself ---- “Honeys, I know this looks dangerous... but... it's not.”
We smiled with a look of reassurance as we slowly stepped around them and showed them what it looked like after taking that first daunting step. With big eyes, they watched us ascend, and then slowly brought their round eyes back down to the unnaturalness of moving stairs.
Making our safe passage up to the next level, we looked over the high railing to encourage them on. And they did it, they took that first step. We cheered, they cheered, fear had been beaten and the ride was underway.

After Bible study time with the ladies in the slum, the rains were threatening and the thunder rolled. We knew the ladies would get soaked through and through as they walked back to their huts so far from the place where we gather each Friday, so we offered to carry them home instead. It's comical really, how many Kenyan ladies you can pack into one vehicle, especially when trying to beat the rains. As they filed into the car, it left no room for our son, Peter. But he soon found a solid solution, he would ride on the back of a friend's motorcycle who planned to follow us home to borrow a book. We looked at the looming clouds, listened to the angry rumbles, and prayed. There was no other option really. We couldn't strand the ladies as they carried babies on their backs and little ones in their arms. And our mostly grown son was all up for the quick ride through rushing traffic under threatening skies. Letting go and trusting the One who loves most, it's a must, not an option. And it came to me later, “donna, I know that looked dangerous... but... really it wasn't”. Not because of the logical conclusion or measured risks involved, but only because of the nearness of God and His great care. 1 Peter 5:7 in the Message translation sings to me in those moments, “Live carefree before GOD, HE is most careful with you.”
(note: the Word does not say we should live carelessly ---- but rather “carefree” AND before God)

 Can you find the mzungu?

These words are being typed while sitting in the Amsterdam airport. Just days prior we'd received another warning was sent out to Americans living in Kenya, a warning from the US Embassy, cautioning Americans to be alert and aware, terrorist threats had increased.
Eleven hours ago I let go of my Steve's hand, hugged Peter tight and stepped through the security gates of the Nairobi airport. And I whispered to myself those same words, “i know this looks dangerous... but... it's not.” Even though the Embassy had warned of the potential danger, I reminded myself of the Truth (live “carefree” before God --- He is most careful with you).

Things around us can look treacherous and ominous. Our Lord even tells us straight up --- “in this world you will have trouble...” We shouldn't be surprised when it comes. It's not a matter of “if” it's soundly a matter of “when”.
But we people, we try to control the percentages very closely. I've lived most all my life trying to manage the possibilities carefully --- to try and keep the opportunities for trouble slim and manageable (if at all possible).
And i've learned that I can stay inside controlled parameters and minimize risk, but then i'm rarely in the places where God wants to touch and speak and share and love and help and be – through me.

Stepping into places of intense, known danger on our own, without God's cover and guard ---- well, that's NOT what i'm talking about here at all.
There are places we are simply not suppose to be, things we are not suppose to do.
For each of us, those lines are defined differently ---- and they should be, according to why we are here, what God has purposed in us.

But we should never, ever forget ---- “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” – and there's a reason for that gift.

There's a wide swing here between scared and hiding --------------to looking for danger and running full speed into it.
And somewhere in the middle of that God-held swing is a sweet spot where we breathe air designed for our lungs to inhale.
It's not the stale, stagnant air found in boxes that hold us in. Likewise it's not the treacherous, oxygen-void air found in the heat of the fire or heights of the atmosphere we were not designed to endure.
But instead, it's the aroma filled air in the wide open spaces of obeying and being exactly where the One who made us has called us to be.

In the eyes of the world, it could often be said, “That looks too dangerous...”
But if God is with us ----- doesn't His Word say ----- “who can be against us”.
Do we believe that? Or is it just one of those verses we use when it fits with what we might be trying to convey at the time? Is it a verse of convenience? Or His Word for our daily bread?

These words don't flow out of me with some sideways agenda to try and get people to step into dangerous, adventurous places. No. These words come out of me as I daily reach for His Robe and say, “Oh Lord, I feel too weak. It might be easy-peasy for other people to fly all over the world alone and drive on crazy roads so far from home. But you know me, i'm Your little girl, and you know it feels a little odd (and dare I say a bit crazy) for me to be found in these sort of places. So, I have to be honest Lord, with you, and say, i'm holding on to you with everything i've got. Cause you know Lord, to my eyes, this looks like it might be dangerous... but i'm hearing your still, small voice whispering in my soul ----- 'Yes donna, I know this looks dangerous... but... with me... it's not.'”

And so, like the little girl at the bottom of the escalator, i've watched others step into the unnaturalness of places that seemed wildly dangerous to me. And i've seen them move to new places, higher places, with smiles on their faces and peace in their eyes. And i've heard you calling from above, looking over High rails in the Heavenlies and encouraging me on. So day after day, i'll keep stepping where you tell me to ------- thankful beyond words that ------ I always find you there in those illogical, unnatural places (where stairs should be still, but they are moving instead) ---- doing the things that can only be done by You.
… and “in my weakness, you are oh, so strong.”
Thank you Lord.

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fishing for Life

He said, “They are fishing for life” and...

It felt profound. It had the ring of remarkable. It was the way he said it mixed with the look on his face. He was acquainted with living, we could sense it by the way he did it in front of us.

Our boat had glided across the waters of Lake Baringo pausing to catch glimpses of Kingfishers, Fish Eagles, Hornbills, and rainbow Malachites. We met Susan, the Nile crocodile that would come to his whistle but not linger as a pet would. We left the 6 foot croc as he said, “We'll go buy fish and return to feed her. She'll love it.” We road a distance further on the beautifully wild lake as he explained to us the names and characteristics of the mountain ranges on either side of us. We were riding through the deeper parts of the Great Rift Valley in this part of Kenya. And he said, “Millions of years from now, this great valley will open itself up and separate these mountains from those and the sea will flow through it.” Pointing to the peaks on either side of us. He lived in one of the most spectacular places in the world... and he knew it. We were quiet as he spoke of what he knew so well. Teaching us what we did not know, his eyes glimmered, as he shared pieces of his world with us.

The boat driver slowed our speed as we approached the fishermen sitting on reed grass-beds floating in the deep aqua water. As we drew nearer we could see they sat on partially submerged boat-like floats made from balsa trees. Poles of spongy, lightweight wood lashed together. Their paddles were made from tire treads cut into small, oval shaped pieces they would hold in their hands and use like flippers. All day these fishermen would sit on the floating wood boat with legs dangling in the water. A simple pole made from a long thin stick held the line that held one hook tied to its end. A large African termite met its end on the hook being dipped into the water where the grass-bed was separated a bit. Like Huckleberry Fin on the mighty Mississippi, these fishermen sat patiently dipping their hooks into the water. There was a peace around them. Three men and a young boy, they fished in silence, each movement slow. And it was here, he said, “They are fishing for life.”

For us, we felt the gift of being allowed into their “world”. These fishermen knew the water, the fish, and the flow of life around this lake in the Rift Valley. But they knew nothing of the world we came from... and most likely, they would not have been intrigued by it at all. When you spend your days peacefully asking the lake to surrender “life” to you so you can feed your family and provide for needs, what other world would woo them.
Daily, they fish for LIFE.
It's been their way for decades.
It's been the way on the shores of this lake for centuries.

They would have had much to talk about with Peter and Andrew and James and John. The older man was a 21st century Zebedee, fishing with his son. As we bought 3 fish from them to give to Susan, they returned to their work... fishing for life. They were busy and content. Much could be learned in the solid simpleness around them.

Our guide was their friend. They spoke in a tongue known well to them, but still foreign to us. We couldn't grasp all they were saying to one another, but we could read their gestures and understand their eyes. They knew one another well, and they liked what they knew in each other. The boy caught a tilipia and held it up proudly to show his father, and our guide, and we were blessed by the joy in his face over his success. His father had taught him the work of fishing for life, and he was getting it.
And I wondered to myself... are you one of my Father's treasures... living an obscure life, doing the next right thing, and blessing the world around you in ways that won't show loudly but will run deeply.

Years ago when I first came to this continent, I had been jaded by the cruelness happening to countless women and children. And that warping in my mind had caused me to wrongfully assume most men here were users and abusers. Now after living here, and hearing the many more stories, my eyes see more, and my heart is no longer dark towards them. So many good men work to care for their families in the same place where some men do not. But the good ones always rise to the top. That's one way God works. He conquers evil by growing men who persevere in the ways of Light ---- and some of those men, fish for life.

As we left the fishermen, my husband and I let our minds settle into those words. We spoke quietly to one another realizing the three simple words had gone deep in us both --- “Fishing for life”.
Riding back to feed Susan, the corner of my eye caught the movements of our guide as he quickly, but silently killed each of the 3 fish. He noticed my awareness of his actions and slowly said, “So sorry mom, but it's what I must do for their life to pass to the croc, if I do not they will swim away too quickly and keep it for themselves.” And while it was a bit disturbing to realize the fish were dying beside me, it was another chance for wisdom to teach me a fuller meaning in his words.

“It's what I must do for life to pass... if I do not they will keep it for themselves...”
And in the oddest way, I felt the common ground between the fish and I.
Dying to self is not pleasant. In fact it's an ugly, painful process. To lay down our own life, our plans, our goals, our everything... so that it can become LIFE in other places and for others.
For the fish beside me, their life would pass on to the crocodile.
For me, for you, where is our life passing on to?

Christ did it first.
He gave up His life and passed Life on to those who will receive it.
And in the holy process, He then calls us to lay our lives down (even while we are still breathing), so that Life can flow through us to others.
It's the way of the One who spoke of being born twice.
Two births, two deaths, the Holy rhythm of truly having LIVED.
But, we people, we work so desperately to keep our lives for ourselves don't we? Just as the fish lying in the boat bottom on Baringo. It flopped frantically trying to find a way to get back to its business of swimming. It would have kept its life for itself and swam away at the first chance offered. But the one who held it knew, the only way life could pass on was for the fish to lay its own life down.
The fish did not willingly do this.
It had no choice.
But we...
We are given the choice by the One who holds us.
We can keep it all for ourselves, or...
we can choose to lay down our life, even as we live, so that the One who knows best can freely flow true Life through us to a dying world.

Beside the dying fish, the Word was whispering.
“seek, and you will find...”

Later, we returned to the shores and plans were made for our guide to take us on a hike at the base of the escarpment not far from our campsite. The time was set for 4 in the afternoon, when the heat of the day would begin to pass. Two hours of walking was the plan. He overflowed with passionate words talking of scorpions, snakes, bugs, and small animals living in the crevices of the desert terrain. “I began watching birds when I was nine years old and have now become an ornithologist. I am most at home with what lives in the wild and especially with what lives on the wing.” While scorpions and snakes had not been on our list for the day, the enthusiasm in our guide drew us, and we were eager for what he wanted to share. After completing the plans for our evening hike, my husband shook hands with our guide, with a tip of gratitude passing from his hand to the one who had blessed us. He could have pocketed that 500 shillings with no one knowing the exchange had taken place. But instead, he immediately turned and handed the tip he had received to the young man who had driven the boat. He received... he passed it on. And there was a brotherly love in their eyes towards one another. It's what happens when we freely give what we have freely received. Love flows.
We looked forward to walking in the wild with this good man.

But sadly, that walk never took place.

Our guide had taken another couple out for a tour shortly after our return. They had wanted to explore another section of the lake where great cliffs hung over the shore. Was it planned or impulse that caused him to offer to climb and dive from the cliff to the waters? We'll never know. But, while diving from a cliff, something he had likely done hundreds of times since his childhood, the one who had spoken just hours earlier of “fishing for life”, dove in, never to surface again.

His name, was Cliff.
And it was from a cliff he breathed his last.

We don't know details of his life, we were only privy to the way he lived beside us for 60 minutes.

He left a family behind when he left this world. We were told his fishermen friends stopped fishing and his fellow guides shut down their businesses for the day. It hit the lake community hard when they learned of the loss of their friend. That night as we slept in our tent on the shores of the lake, with hippos passing nearby eating the grass to fill their massive stomachs, drums beat through the darkness. It was a mourning coming from the village where he had been born and had lived. The beating of the drum went long into the night. And then it stopped... just has the beating of the heart had that day.

To know we had been with him when he bought his last fish from his life-long friends and shared his last portion of life with Susan, it's not something to view lightly. There's a respect that is right when the lasts are witnessed. There will be no more “fishing for life” for our guide on the lake. It was harsh and sobering to realize a man so full of life had breathed some of his last air with us just hours before.
But, it was a defining moment for us, to realize, this man was speaking words of a life-giving legacy when he shared his life-giving words at the beginning of the day that would be his last.
“they are fishing for life...”

Life will end.
One day we will all wake up, and not know, that day will be our last.
And will we be found living and speaking and acting in a way, that when we take in that last lung-full of air, those who came near us will breathe in better ways because of the way we lived beside them.
Are we purposeful in the ways we “fish for life”?
Do we each realize we are fishing for something?
Without a pole in our hands, each and every day, we will catch something and we will pass something on to others.
Will it be LIFE?
Or will it be “death” that's been seasoned with negativity and sarcasm or selfishness or greed?
Or are we likened to a fish that's found it's way back out of the boat, flopping under protest until we finally found the waters again. And swimming away as quickly as we could, have we refused to “die to ourselves so that others might live.”?
There's no hook in these words. Just a sharing of the right questions that rolled through my mind as wisdom whispered on the shores that day.

The men on lake Baringo are literally fishing for fish. But even in that common task, they view it differently. They are not simply looking for a fish at the end of their lines. They are more accurately looking for life.

The thing they “catch” will give “life”.
And what of us...?

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Don't be afraid... stand still... watch the Lord"

It's a favorite of my heart, like Christmas joy coming in unexpected moments. When pots and pans are being filled, sauces stirred, sweets in the oven, and the air around is filled with their voices. Sharing life, taking it in. Food for the stomach pales beside food for a momma's heart. 

This past month my Kenyan kitchen has been filled with their voices... two I gave birth to and one who's joined our tribe, Maggie's dear husband Ray. Do they know just how priceless it is to hear their voice, their laughter, their opinions and thoughts and joys and challenges? They are not little ones around my legs as I cook, they are full grown, taller than me, blessings that no longer need me to feed them at my table. They now choose what goes in; body and soul.
To release them is only possible when we take that emptied hand and grab hold of the One who loves them most.
I've struggled.
Some moms seem to let go with a push. Some never let go. Given a choice, i'd have surely been the latter. We've always said they were our favorite people. Always. And they are. So understandably, we let the hem of their presence linger in our hearts after they've gone. Then we turn to one another --- this man who is with me all through these years of living --- and we journey on together. We pray and trust and talk to Abba over it all. And we focus on all the ways we are cared for and all the ways they are as well. We release and we trust. It's an obedience that has led to books authored by those who think they have something to teach the rest of us. Perhaps they do. Perhaps not. Most of all, I know the One who takes their hand is the One who made their hand and He's the same One who knows the plans He has for them... and there's a rightness in praying more over their tight hold of Him than the letting go of our flesh covered bones. 

The one who came last to us, towering over me now, is growing into a great man before us... his words flooded my mind and gushed through my soul as he shared from his heart just days ago. He said, “Mom, I want to tell you something, and I don't want you to become afraid, I just want you to hear me, ok?” Oh he does know this cracked clay vessel he calls momma. Smiling carefully to encourage the flow of his often rare words, I poised myself to act like Abba's girl in front of Abba's gift. Reassuring him, he continued sharing his carefully placed words. He said, “Mom, you know how long we prayed over whether or not I should pursue college in Kenya or move back to the States. And you remember how we laid it before God asking Him to open and close doors according to His plans.”
“Yes, son, I remember it well.”
“And you know it stretches us all so much more than we ever dreamed we would be stretched during our wonderful days on Mockingbird Road. When just pulling in our little driveway and going for long walks in the woods with our dogs, well, we sure had it good during those growing up years, ya' know.”
“Yes, son, I remember.”
“So now, we know that we didn't plan these days. We know God did it. We know it's His plans and we are just walking where He tells us to walk and doing what He tells us to do.”
“Yes, it's all His son, the Call and the results. It's all His. It's way too big for us to hold.”
He continued with such a gentleness that is rare among men.
“I don't look forward to going back to school, I love being here with you and dad. But more than that, I know it's exactly what i'm suppose to do. It would be wrong for me to take the comfortable road, it's right for me to obey even when it's uncomfortable. So I want you to know, deep inside, that I am absolutely certain i'm suppose to continue for another semester in Nairobi. But...”
Oh Lord, so many things can follow a but...”
“Mom, I want to ask you to pray more and more for me when i'm in Nairobi. I know God is with me there. But there are lots of things that happen around me there that I just don't tell you and dad about, 'cause I don't want you to worry. There's nothing you can do about them anyway. It's just the way the world acts and mix a few terrorists in with that, and it gets messy sometimes. Still, i'm learning so much and for whatever reason, I know this is where God wants me to learn, at least for this season.”
... be still my heart, let your eyes encourage him to keep sharing donna...”
“So I want to say this mom. I don't think anything is going to happen to me. I've not had any bad dreams or weird feelings at all. I'm not in any trouble and i'm surrounded by good friends there. But, I want to be sure you have something to hold onto just in case something did happen.” … “Mom, I know I am where I am suppose to be. It's not easy. It's very challenging. I don't know why God has opened these doors or exactly what He is doing with all this. But, even if something awful were to happen, I want you to always remember ----- i'm where i'm suppose to be and I wouldn't change a thing.”

Big, soft blue eyes gushed love and peace so strong in my kitchen everything else disappeared.

And I knew, the best way to love him was to accept his words and trust Yahweh.

Those words have nested inside me. In good ways.
Obedience is better than safety.
Our Abba is serious about those words... “in this world you will have trouble... but don't be afraid... I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD...” (caps by my heart)
What??? Did I just say that?
Obedience is better than control and security and carefully deduced man-plans.
Obedience + surrender + trust = Peace

Then days later I read slow through Exodus 14. Over and over again. I sat on those words long. Mulched them into my “garden”, watered them, tilled the dirt around them, no creeping/lying weeds were allowed to linger near and i listened close.
Then v. 13-14 “But Moses told the people, 'Don't be afraid, just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.'”

Gold. Purest gold is tucked in those words. Well refined and of highest value and not worn around necks or on fingers but lining the souls of saints.

Don't think me disrespectful of the Holy Words when I squeeze myself inside them. Oh how I do hope you do the same. The Words are alive --- they are meant to be LIVED --- they are not dry ink on old pages held within closed covers on dusty shelves. They are meant to give life and bring life and encourage and strengthen and help us remember ----- our Abba's love letter is for His kids. We should hold them so tightly to our souls that we begin to live them because they've fed us and filled us and overflow from us ----- weak as we are ---- His Words bring strength and power.
So --- while planting in my “garden”, here's how the seeds looked, “But God told donna, 'don't be afraid, just stand still and watch Me rescue you and Peter today and everyday. The terrorists and those who intend harm, you might see them today but you will not see them again. I, the Lord, will fight for you. Just stay calm.'”
… and air flowed richly into my lungs...

“Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.'” v. 15-16

Our Abba is powerful to save. He chooses who is saved and when they are saved and for what purposes. We can't control this world. Not one molecule of it is under our control. We might try to manipulate and plan and organize and facilitate our own carefully thought out agendas. But at the end of each and every day ---- what we “controlled” fell short of what God would have done with it if we had stood and watched God fight for us.
To be clear. I'm not suggesting we should do nothing. God didn't tell Moses to do nothing. God did NOT say, “Moses, you just sit right down there and watch me do it all.”
No. God made sure Moses and the people knew they had their part.
They were to: not be afraid, stand still, watch the Lord, see the Lord fight for them, stay calm.
Then Moses was to: Tell the people to get moving, raise up his hand over the sea, divide the waters (because of God's power in his obedience) and walk through on dry land.

It wasn't Moses plan.
It was God's plan.
(Goodness knows, no man breathing would imagine to raise his hands and part a sea.)
God would do it ------- in accordance with Moses' obedience.
Moses raised his hands ------ the LORD parted the waters.

My blue eyed treasure reminded me, and made me fertilize my “garden” so the plants and flowers that will bloom there will be stronger and taller and reflective of the flower-Maker.
Fertilized with God's truths.

God is in complete control.
We get to either obey Him and see Him work in the hardest places or we miss it completely while we huddle in our well-decorated box.

So --- I pray more for Peter, just as he asked. But my prayers are not laced with fear and worry. Oh the enemy of my Lord does try and slide those in the back door for sure.
My prayers are filled with gratitude and awe, asking the One who is over all to carry him through --- “Your kingdom come... Your will be done... in your boy Lord.”
How good it is to hold Words of Life in our hands and plant them deep.

“Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch Me... I, your Lord, will fight for you. Just stay calm. Get moving... walk where I lay the path dry in front of you... yes, there will be trouble... but take heart... I have overcome the world... I will cover you with my feathers and under My wing you will find refuge... Because you love ME... I, God, will rescue you... I will protect you for you acknowledge my name... you will call out to Me, and I will answer you... I will be with you in trouble... I will deliver you … I, God, will show you my salvation...”

He's in Nairobi now.
So is the One who loves him most.

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What's Right and in Whose Eyes?

Centuries ago someone said, “There but for the Grace of God, goes I”. Who first coined the phrase is often disputed; most attribute the quote to John Bradford.
As a little girl I wondered about that saying.
Did that mean that the Grace of God was better to me than to those who were living in awfully hard places? Why did anyone suffer, I wondered --- where was God's good Grace for them?
Later I came to understand Mr. Bradford's meaning in the phrase. He had looked upon prisoners being marched to their execution for a crime, and acknowledged through the words that he too was a sinner, he too had done great wrongs in his heart. And only by the grace of God was he not executed as well.
He realized he too deserved death, but the grace of God was allowing him life instead.

In Judges 19 – 21 there's a terrible but true story about injustice and death and cruelty and destruction. And the concluding words written at the end of the painful telling state, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
That's the end of the book --- the final words.

And I think to myself --- we've not come very far.
Today, it might read instead, “In these days the King is not honored; everyone does as they see fit.”

We've just come off the slopes of Mt. Elgon and my heart is colliding with my mind. Judges is still alive, the place where “everyone is doing as they see fit”. 

It's August as these words are being written. August on the mountain slopes is when Luhya boys are circumcised. It's their Passage into Manhood. The age of the boy may vary and the details are too grim to share here. But before the actual event, the boys walk along the roadways from village to village wearing beads and waving poms. They are sometimes covered in a powdery dust made from crushed millet and decorative head dresses might be worn. They're accompanied by older boys/young men who they themselves have endured the “passage”. Older boys carrying bottles of alcohol, it's a drunkards feast with knives and blood and rituals far from holy. (Christian Luyha people no longer participate in this practice.) They will inflict great pain on the boys using one knife for all --- it will “initiate” them. Some die. Afterwards the boys are forced to walk long distances, limping badly, hardly able to move yet required to walk, wearing an outer sheet wrapped round them, and carrying a small stick to prop on when needed. They'll walk through nearby towns, enduring more harrassments from older boys. It's insanely inhumane, but they are eager to endure, thinking it proves them to be “a man”.
It's overwhelming to think of, but while the boys parade about in the street the girls are secretly hidden away as they too are illegally circumcised... and I think of the last words in the book of Judges...“everyone did as he saw fit”.

In another land there are other knives used for other purposes. Recently a young person from my homeland shared with me their concern and confusion over why almost every woman they know has paid big dollars to have some part of her God-given body altered. Knives used by educated surgeons meant to restore youth or improve the ways the Creator apparently fell short. This is NOT being written to judge or even scold. It's just a wondering, and one shared by so many young people watching them and learning. The young are being taught... men can fix God's errors... And they are trying to figure out, “Is God really who people say He is, or not?”

But living in a land where too many work endless hours to fill stomachs, it sits sideways inside me, and silence is not an option. 

Someone recently shared with me they have a friend who doesn't believe there are really any hungry, fly-covered babies in this world. That the photos are all staged and the funds are instead filling pockets of clever marketers and corrupt companies. And that sits crossways on top of the other.

And I stumble long over these words.

How can it be ok for hungry babies to cry themselves to sleep, while others fill their pantries with too much? And how can it be that drunkards use knives to circumcise boys in one place while wealthy doctors use knives to re-create money-laden ladies in another place?
I'm not opposed to plastic surgery, NOT AT ALL --- instead I thank God for giving millions of patients the chance for reconstruction after breast-cancer, or repairing cleft lips on precious babies or repairing bodies mangled in car accidents or fires or abuse. God bless the surgeons that use their skills to repair and restore.
But, when the enemy has lied so strongly to a woman (or man) and convinced them that they need to look different than how the One who loves them most made them... I just get confused over it all. (and for any of my dear friends who might have had plastic surgery... I'm not coming in the side door trying to make a point to you. I honestly don't even know who has or has not. I don't have time or energy to notice. I promise).
Isn't the drunkard circumcising the boys just “doing what is right in his own eyes...?” And isn't the person spending money to alter how they look not because they need it, but because they have been lied to by society and the mirror and “the liar”... aren't they too just “doing what is right in their own eyes...?”
Are we really seeing the truth?
Are we willing to?
Not the truth according to anything written here... but the TRUTH according to the One over it all.
If it “seems right in our own eyes” does that really make it right?

I've just sat with women who have suffered in ways that words won't fit.
And the words stuck in my veins, “There but for the grace of God, goes i...”
In 2006 a land dispute broke out on this mountain. The atrocities inflicted on the families here are too dark to write about. Much like the story at the end of Judges. Some shared with me they had been able to run away during those hardest of days on the mountain. I asked, “Why didn't everyone run?” They shared, “If all you had was the land under your feet, and all you had to eat was grown on that land, if you were poor and had no where else to go, you had no choice.” Many of the eyes looking at me had seen monsters disguised as men --- and yet here they were smiling back at me. They've endured. They continue to tend the fields they bled on. They've buried their husbands under them. They've grown crops since those days, they've filled the stomachs of the little ones who survived. They've given birth since then. They have held the hurt inside until their hearts are near ready to explode over it all. And they ask, send someone who will teach us how we can forgive all this. My knees cave, my stomach rolls and lurches inside. Lord, surely there is another who should do this.
I've spent years learning about forgiveness, but...
But the wrongs i've forgiven others are kindergarten level compared to these.
Forgive the friend who lied about you, forgive the one who talked about you behind your back. Forgive the one who judged you hard and the one who dismissed your loyalty with rejection. Forgive the gossiper, the betrayer, the one who thinks themselves better and the one who makes jokes over your serious pursuit of the Father. The one who turned from you when you began your deepest obedience to Abba... and help me forgive myself Lord, for all the many ways I too have wronged others.
My pitious list of practiced, sincere forgivings feels shallow beside their deeply plowed anguishes.
But... It's not “me” they need, it's the One who “makes all things new”. He allows Himself to be carried about in our cracked, clay vessels. So my clay vessel will deliver HIM. And whether the thing that must be forgiven is deep or shallow, the enemy of our Lord cares not. He will torture and torment over the small just as effectively as he will the big.

My knees find the floor... often.

Truth is truth whether on the mountain slopes or in the valley.
But, we people, we can confuse each other over it can't we?

In a world where too many “do as they see fit”, there are gaping, weeping, wounds. And the only right answer is --- we need a King. We will die without a Savior. We are walking-dead because someone “did as they saw fit”. Hollywood makes movies about the walking-dead. But they're wrong, the walking-dead are not zombies as they portray them to be. They look like normal people on the outside --- but they've died inside. They don't eat the flesh of others, they eat beans and rice or steak and potatoes, but nothing they eat brings them new life. And the next blow comes at the hands of the “torturer” the one who will continue their nightmare as long as they are chained to unforgiveness.

Too many “did as they saw fit” --- and then the destroyer comes to torment further...
The former can only be changed by holding fast to God's TRUTH.
The latter can only be healed by one of those very truths ---- we must forgive.
There is no other way.

Whether the wound comes at the kindergarten level or the anguish climbs to the post-grad level ---- the answer remains the same.
We must Forgive... and then His Grace can flow.

Now as I pray and process, I find myself asking the question, “What seems right in your eyes donna, that the King wants to correct”?
If we think there is nothing ----- we are being fooled.
Jesus alone is blameless. But not us... not me.

It's a part of the brokenness of this world.
We move through the days and sleep through the nights ---- and then sometimes we remain asleep even in the day. Our eyes are closed... we are unable to see.

The old saying echoes inside --- “There but for the grace of God, goes i” and I feel my soul cry responding that there MUST be more. It comes from deep within.

“There but for the grace of God, goes I...”

His grace is too good for us. We don't deserve it.
If we've been given much, if we've suffered less, do we pause enough to wonder why?
Perhaps there's a great reason...

If the grace of God has kept us from deep, life-draining, nightmarish suffering ---- should we dare to allow ourselves to simply “do what is right in our own eyes”? Or should we run to the King thanking Him for His good graces over us and respond by asking ---- how can I best use the great grace you've given me?

There but for the grace of God, goes I...
---- but because of the grace of God, I will__________________.

we've a limited number of days to finish those words ------- oh Lord, open our eyes, and help us to do what is right in YOUR eyes.

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe