Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Behind the Veil

Leaning toward Steve i said, “Goodness, it is scary.” He nodded in agreement. Then as i stepped up to the guard to be scanned, she said, “You are scared? Why are you scared?” Shocked that she had heard me, i replied, “No i'm not scared, i only spoke to my husband about something that is scary.” The female guard looked me in the eye and said, “i know, and yes it is.” She felt the same way i did, she understood.
We had been driving most of the day, headed north. Stopping to buy some groceries, we approached the entrance of a store just as a young woman stepped in front of me to get a cart before entering. She was not rude, no offense was taken. But it was her clothing that caught my attention and gave me pause. She was wearing a full hijab, with a niqab, (where a small slit allows only the eyes to show). I've grown accustomed to seeing them here and there, but usually they are in full black. Her's was different.

It's still hard to believe i live so far from my homeland. But, i do, it is real, and daily my Abba stretches me to know more of Him, His ways, His plans. I no longer allow myself the indulgence of seeing things with my own eyes only. There's just so much more to be seen, understood, and done. Looking with my eyes alone would only limit me from seeing the real reason i'm breathing. There's more, there's always more. And the more Abba wants for His kids is not purchased with coins, instead it's found in obedience to whatever He is saying in the moments of any day.

Finished with the guard's scans, assured we carried no weapons, she smiled warmly as we entered the store. The fully-robed lady walked in front of us, and i noticed how everyone stared at her. She did draw attention to herself, but even from behind i sensed she did not want to be noticed.

Some might think me silly, but another thing i have learned living in this country, is when in doubt----- it is time to pray. And honestly, i am in doubt so many times every day. Doubt of what someone is about to do, how the police are about to behave, where the crazy matatu drivers are going when they fly past us on the dirt side of the roadway, the doubt goes on and on.
I grew up where there was order, rules, and for the most part people followed those rules. If they didn't, they eventually ended up in jail. But that is not the case here. There are rules, yes, but they are viewed as suggestions not requirements, unless of course the random police officer decides to enforce them. All this to say, it is always wise to pray... always. So we spend much of our time praying. It feels completely normal to us now. The crazy swirl of piki drivers, noisy loudspeakers, guards with guns, a riot of colors, and languages from 120 different dialects all within this one wonderful country of Kenya, doubt prevails, so must prayers. For sure, i love this country and its people, but it keeps me ever on my toes, no scratch that, it keeps me on my knees.

So as we walked down the first aisle and i noticed her shrinking shoulders responding to the ever-watchful-eyes of everyone she met, i prayed.
I'm not trying to sound all holy and perfect when i say that i prayed. Please don't read it in that way. Instead, it was a prayer asking for protection, and an asking for her. I needed her to not do anything to harm anyone. But i could not ignore that she needed someone, anyone, please s-o-m-e-o-n-e pray for her.

If i believe my Abba Father is who He says He is (and i do), then more than anyone, i know the depth of her intense need for Him. Imagine it --- she does not know the One who made her, she knows nothing of His love for her, she eeks through her days dry on the inside because she has not one drop of living water flowing through her parched soul. It hurts to see her with those eyes.
But hey, why am i getting all prayerful and deep in the middle of the market ---- i'm there to buy onions, chicken, and yogurt right??

Still, i prayed, “Father God, you see her, you know her, help her please... and as for us, no harm is allowed to come near us in the Name of Jesus. I'm covered and cared for by the One who is above all things... no weapon formed against us will prosper... Father help her...”

As i said amen, she went straight and i turned right.

It was over ---- now, ..... where do they keep the creamer i like in my tea?...

Steve went one way, i went another. We Americans, we like to be efficient with our time. Our plan, we'd be in and out in less than 5 minutes.

But two minutes later as i headed towards the yogurt cooler, guess who was standing near the cheeses? Reaching for the yogurt, she spoke to me. She said, “Could i please speak to you?”
Within 2 seconds i had 10 solid emotions rush through me.
The afraid-woman should pretend i didn't hear her, ignore her, and walk away quickly.
But is that why i'm breathing...?
The defensive-woman should level her with a hard glance and ---- walk away.
But that's not who i am...
The unsure-woman would respond with trembling hands and her doubt would be smelled by all.
But the woman who knows who she belongs to and why she is breathing again today, knows, buying yogurt isn't what matters. People matter.

So i paused for a breath prayer (i'm not kidding about praying allllll the tiiiiiimmmmmme).
Looked at her and said, “What did you say?”
“Could i please speak to you?”
“Certainly.” Lord, fill this space.
And i prepared myself for what i suspected she might want to say to me. Had she heard my words at the entrance speaking of how “scary it was”... had she known i was speaking of her clothing and how it covered everything but her hands and eyes? Was she about to confront me?
Lord, fill this space...
I stepped a bit closer, so i could understand her timid voice.
Lord, fill this space between us...
And she said, “I am the oldest of 7 children. We live with my grandmother. My parents both died in a car accident in 2008, my grandmother has cared for us since that time. She is now very old and very sick. Caring for the family has fallen to me, and i need a job please, i will do whatever is needed. I can cook, clean, it's only that i need a job.”
Lord, help me help her...
I shared with her briefly that we already have a dear lady who cares for our home so well, so no job was available. But i pressed ahead quickly to say, “The only thing i can do for you is pray for you, that God will make a way for a good job to come.”
By now, she was looking me in the eyes, and giving me the unspoken permission to look into her eyes. Much is said when eyes meet.
She responded and said, “Please do pray for me, since your God is my God, and he will hear your prayers.”
Lord, give me your words, your know what she really needs...
Ever so carefully, as gently as is ever possible, I said, “Thank you for letting me pray for you, but you must know, my God is Jehovah. And by the way you are dressed, shall i guess that your god is allah?” She nodded. “But still, may i pray to my God for you?”
And the look in her eyes...
if only words could match the depth...she knew she needed more than just a job... she knew...
She looked around cautiously and said, “Yes, please, perhaps He will hear you and help me.”
I asked her name, she softly gave it. I called her by name and said, “For sure my God will hear a prayer concerning you, for whether you know Him or not, He knows you and He loves you. So i will pray for you by name as i go, but may i pray for you right now so you can hear what i will ask on your behalf.”
And she visibly shrank.
Her eyes darted about as if enemies lurked in bushes near by (as if we weren't in the freezer section).
She said, “You mean here, you are asking to pray here?”
“Yes, you see my God is with me wherever i am. He never leaves me, He is everywhere and He always cares.”
Again... those eyes.
When all you can see of a person is their eyes, those eyes must be carefully looked into. There is no tilt of the lips that can be assessed, no shrugging of the shoulders can be seen, and no smirking face can be detected. Only the eyes can speak when words are measured and all else is hidden.

I called her by name again and said, “I will pray with my eyes open, and even looking at you, no one will know we are praying, only you and i and the God who is a Father.”
Her eyes watered, she shifted her face-cover, then ever-so-softly said, “p-l-e-a-s-e”.

And so in the frozen food section of a public market, i carried her name to the One who loves her. No veil can stop His great love-longing for her soul. We prayed, i spoke, she remained silent, and there was kindness in her trapped brown eyes.

Who was watching her? Was anyone watching her? Why was she so afraid? Yet, she had the courage to allow me to pray for her in public.

Fear. It is the enemy. Fear drives people to do horrendous things to other people all because they are afraid. They might think they are killing for other reasons, but i've grown to understand, even the terrorists are killing because of fear. They are afraid of their gods disapproval, they are afraid of what their comrads might think of them if they do not, they are afraid of being killed themselves. Two months ago we sat and talked long with two young men who grew up muslim, but converted to Christianity during their early twenties. Now they run for their lives as even their own family members search for them, to kill them, all in reverence to their god. These young men explained to us how you are trapped in that religion, and if you try and break free from it, you will suffer. One of them had been persecuted so harshly for his Christian beliefs, that when he refused to renounce Jesus, he was pushed from a four story high window. His stomach burst on impact, spilling his stomach and intestines out onto the ground. His last words to his attackers were, “You can not kill me even if you push me, Jesus will save me, or He will take me home, but you, you are not able to end me.” They pushed. He fell. He burst open. He lived. Those who pushed him... two have died since that time, the third is losing his mind and hides in his home, to afraid to be seen. Why? Because he saw Jesus save the life of the one he pushed.
They knew.
Jehovah is the One true God.

The lady in the market, who allowed me to pray for her, she too knows there is something more. She is trapped behind the veil... she carries an aching soul inside. A soul that Jehovah l-o-v-e-s.

My life rarely has space to read what social media conveys. I miss most of the whirl; the words, the rants, the trending fads, the accusations and declarations.
Still i know that often times harsh lines are drawn by some who hate this group or criticize that group.
But as for me, my Abba reminded me as i walked out of the market that day, “Don't be afraid, don't let the outside cause you to miss the inside that I see. Just be where I guide you to be, and speak what I guide you to say, and I WILL DO THE REST.”

We are not in this world to win. We are not here to argue a point and come out on top. We are not here to dominate and rule over others. We are not here to be afraid.
If we call Abba our Father ----- we are here to love Him and love others... and maybe we will grow in our ability to live out the truth that love actually covers over a multitude of sins --- love covers all --- love drives out fear ---- LOVE WINS. 

---- when you see the veil covering the face ---- pray for the soul it is trying to hide ----

Thursday, May 26, 2016

When You Walk Into a Room

When you walk into a room, what happens? How does your arrival make others “feel”?
Are they intimidated? Happy? Anxious?

When we walk into a room, sometimes, no one notices. But more often than we realize, others will have a subtle emotion surge through them when we enter.

How we live beside them, how we respond to them, how we look at them begins to author the emotion they feel. Are we a calming influence? Do they feel rejected? Can they feel safe? Do we make them feel insecure?

Jesus showed us the importance of seeing others and responding to them in right ways.
When Jesus walked into a room, things changed.
And when He left this earth He said we would do all He had done --- and more.
So ----- i've been sitting with this question ---- what happens when i walk into a room? Do joy and peace arrive with me? Or do i bring anxiety and strife? Something more than just flesh and bones enters when we walk into a room.
Something more than used air will remain after we go.
If we asked 10 people closest to us to share one word describing how our presence makes them feel, what words would they use?
Wherever we go, we fill up that space with more than can be seen.
When we walk out of a room, we leave something behind. People feel better, worse, or untouched completely. Have we warmed hearts or chilled them?
It's the pre-cursor to the legacy we will leave when we die.

It's what Heaven's been whispering to me of late.

On a Monday we prayed again over my aching chest. The cough had first come four weeks earlier. Tears had dominated my night; fear is a mean bedfellow. Ugly thoughts like, “could this be the beginnings of a heart attack?”. Since i've never had one, how can i know how it would feel? I'm not typically a worrier, but this extended sickness had begun to win and i was losing the battle in my mind. After lots of prayer, and sorting out many details, my husband bought the ticket to fly me home the next day. It's the cheapest ticket we've ever bought between Kenya and home, what a relief.
Tuesday i boarded the plane.
Twenty-three hours later i landed in Atlanta.
People surrounded me. But my eyes searched only for my daughter.
Maggie walked into the room at the international arrivals in ATL --- and everything changed.
A sparkle of “home” arrived with her. Flowers in hand, she brought peace, calm, love, and the sense of you-are-not-alone. It all walked in the room with her. My chest still ached, but my heart breathed more easily ------

The next day found me sitting in a doctor's office. Friends had made the appointment for me, we'd spoken with them just minutes after booking my flight on Monday. I needed to see a doctor, they made the arrangements for me (thank you Gene and Jackie!). Seventy-two hours later found me in his office. I sat quietly on the high examination table, Jackie and i watched the door. The doctor would soon arrive; he would bring a knowledge of what was wrong with my chest and what needed to be done.
The doorknob turned, Dr. Momin walked in, a smile and a greeting, and i knew answers would soon come.
When the doctor walked into the room --- everything changed.
Before meds were even prescribed, my thoughts shifted and i felt better, just knowing someone was present who knew what to do. No more guessing, i could rest. It was only bronchitis and pleurisy ----- the words heart attack or lung disease never came. It's a tiring battle to keep believing the best when your mind runs rampant over less appealing possibilities.
When someone who could give an educated answer walked into the room --- there was no more space for battlegrounds in my mind.

Two days later i sat in a room proportionate to a castle hall. Called the “Great Room”, it a quiet space where students can retreat from the continuous activity of university life. My youngest son had said, “Mom, while you're home, come to class with me...”. He now attends my alma-mater. It's a beautiful campus in a small gold-mining town, hence the steeple on the oldest building is covered in gold found in the mines long ago. Between classes we walked pathways familiar to us both. I shared storied of the places his father and i had sat and talked during our dating days, before a wedding ring, before children. Under the same-same oak trees, walking the same-same pathways, my son now journeys where i once did, and we felt time shrink. As class called him away, i headed to the great room, he would meet me there after lectures were done.
It's a dark room with a stained glass window on one end, flags hanging high around two perimeter walls, and couches neatly placed in groupings. I chose my spot, slid off my sandals, curled up against the cushions and studied along with the other much-younger-students in the great room. They delved into books like physics and foreign language, poli-sci and calculus. I opened familiar pages of ancient history laced with endless love. My Bible, my greatest study, my home.
I read, journaled, read more, prayed. Mentally sitting right beside the hems of His robe, and wiped tears over the flood that comes. The hour flew by. Looking up from my studies, i saw him round the corner. Peter walked into the room, and everything changed. There came that smile on his face as he found me in the dark great room, that smile of recognition, that look that silently says, “There you are, i know you, i've been looking for you ----”. Familiar kindness, peace, calm – it all came into the room with him.

Days later, i sat in my parents beautiful mountain home. It's their weekend runaway, where the deer battle with my mother over her newly planted flowers and the trees wrestle with my dad over their leafy covering of his long mountain views. It's a place of silence and peace even with these playful wrestlings of nature. Mom and Dad know, the mountain owns itself really (the Deed in their hands means nothing to the mountain), and the trees and deer and bear see their lovely home as a well manicured playground. We'd laughed the night before as we stayed up late and talked. Early morning found me perched in the quaint sitting room off their breakfast area, holding leather-bound-home in my hands again and talking with the One. Everywhere can be home with Him. Finishing up my readings, i sat quiet. The morning sun was shaking the shoulders of the mountains as a mother does the shoulders of her children, “time to wake up”. Light leaked into the little room wrapped in windows. Then mom walked into the room, and familiar flooded in, dad was right behind her, and everything changed. Familiar faces with familiar voices ---- for over five decades. Familiar, safety, kindness, and i-miss-seeing-your-face walked in with them.

My short two week visit home was a flood of much-needed-moments with those dear to me--- walking into the room. And for those two weeks, i allowed myself the gift. Mentally, i wrapped each entry as if it were a literal present.

It was an unplanned trip. A last minute decision. Go home to see a doctor (chest pains pressed the decision), but also, and perhaps even more important, go home to see your children, your family, rest in quiet places with souls that your heart is aching to see.
Perhaps it wasn't pleurisy that pressed me home after all... no, it wasn't a heart attack... instead it was a heart in need.
My dear husband gave me this gift --- go spend Mother's day early with them. The time it will take to fly there and back will be about the same amount of hours you labored to bring them into this world.
What a thought.

As i flew back to Kenya, sitting alone surrounded by people, i revisited all the moments of familiar faces walking into the room.
Words are not able to share the heart sometimes.

It's perhaps one of the great griefs of releasing a loved one to the grave. The pain of knowing they will never walk into the room again. Living so far from home, i do think on such things. And it grows me. Others-centered thoughts, not self-centered ones.
Appreciating the fact that when someone walks into a room with us ------- it is a gift that will not be allowed always. This should not provoke sadness; this should provoke appreciation. SEE the soul that enters the room. Embrace the gift that has come near. And go a step further still --- ask ourselves to be truthful about what others might feel when we walk into their rooms.

In the blink of an eye, my visit was over. Good meds had begun defeating the chest pains and coughing. I'd rested near my children in my daughter and son-in-laws home. Getting to lay my head down under a roof that's also covering the heads of those i gave birth to --- well, that's better than ten Christmas mornings for me.

Waiting on airport tarmac, anticipating those wheels leaving home-soil again ----- those moments of seeing them “walk into the room” filled in the cracked pain of leaving them again.

Landing back in Kenya, i held that same leather-bound-home in my hands. And i purposed in my heart to appreciate who would be walking into the room here. My Steve. We who have been married for many years can all too often overlook the gift that should be seen when they walk into the room. Steve and i have been married for almost 34 years. That's over 12,000 days of walking in to each others rooms. Too many let it become common --- it should not be.

“Walking into the room” ------ it was a thought, a grouping of words that i'd been studying on for near two weeks.
How it felt when others walked into my room... how it might have felt for them when i walked into theirs.

Then two days after my return home to Kenya, i sat with a missionary friend as we prepared to lead worship on Sunday. She had chosen several songs for us to consider. Playing her guitar, we sang. Coming to a song i'd never heard before, she sang it alone, i closed my eyes and listened. She sang the words -------
“When You walk into the room --- everything changes...”

She did not know the journey i'd been on with those very words. I opened my eyes and reached for the song-sheet, as she continued to sing.

When You walk into the room ----everything changes. Darkness starts tremble ----at the light that You bring.
When You walk into the room----- every heart starts burning --- and nothing matters more than just to sit here at Your feet ---- and worship You.”

When Maggie walked into the airport arrivals room – everything changed for me.
When the doctor walked into the examination room --- everything changed.
When Peter walked into the great room at university --- everything changed for me.
When my parents walked into the quiet-time room --- everything changed.
...there were countless other moments of special room arrivals, each of which is dear... and perhaps i appreciate them all the more because it is not often i get to see them walk into my rooms.

But when it came in a song ---
“When YOU walk into the room, everything changes --- darkness starts to tremble at the Light that You bring...”
Heaven whispered.

HE had been giving me glimpses of it – the importance of what happens when LOVE walks into a room.

Truth --- when we walk into each other's rooms, it matters. We bring something with us when we arrive. We bring joy or angst, peace or turmoil. And we actually get to choose. We should choose well what we allow to enter a room with us. It will matter --- more than we know.

Heart-healing can come when others walk into our room – when the doctor walks in – when my children, my sister, my parents, my husband walk in. Heart-healing.

But ----
SOUL-HEALING comes when HE walks into our rooms.

So ---- when the room is filled with too much pain, too much lonely, too much ache --- and we're longing for something to come and relieve the empty space around us.
Let's close our eyes and ask HIM to walk into the room.

When He walks into the room ----- everything changes.
We must not let the wild commotion and deep pains of life on planet earth keep us from remembering -----
what we REALLY NEED --- is for HIM --- to walk into the room ---
and when we walk into the rooms of other's lives, we need to carry Him with us.

And may we never forget --- some of the most unkind among us --- have never felt HIM walk into their aching rooms. May we carry HIM all the more steadfastly into their hollow spaces.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Story of Faith

She stared ahead as bare feet skimmed over red dirt and she wondered, what will come of me. 
Her tattered blue and white school uniform hung from shoulders burdened with weights not meant for a child to carry. Around the curve on the trail her friends would be waiting, the path to school was more wisely traveled together. The journey would be quick; the schoolmaster would be harsh if they delayed.

In her thirteen years, hard lessons had come. She'd buried her father, then 3 blinks later, her mother. It might have been 3 years, but for her mind it was all a fast moving blur. Three children were left, Faith and two younger siblings. Left in the care of her mother's family, they were not abandoned. So why could she never seem to escape the sound of shoveled dirt landing on a hollow, wooden, casket? It was the last sound she heard before sleep came each night, and the first sound she heard before the rooster called each morning. Another year with bare feet gave her not a second thought, but the passing of endless days never uttering the words “momma” or “daddy”, that revealed a lack in her innermost heart no covering could protect, no words could sooth.

But today, fear had a white-knuckle grip on her stomach. Keeping morning ugi down was proving to be a monumental task as her feet padded down the path.

In Uganda there is a law that declares if anyone is caught molesting a child, then few questions will be asked, before they are thrown in jail.
Great in theory, this appears to lend weight in the direction of protecting children. But in reality, there are always clever ways deceitful people are able to circle 'round to the back door of something and find a crack.

The backdoor crack in this law goes something like this...
There are evil-minded people who “promote” their young daughters or nieces to lustful men. Warped men who look with perverted eyes, and plan with darkened hearts how they can take innocence. The “seller” may be a family member, looking to make a schilling as they “off the record” sell their own niece or daughter. However, there's a wicked catch. When the “client” arrives and begins taking what he has paid for, the “seller” secretively takes photos using their cell phone. With proof now in the photos of the violation of this Ugandan law, the “seller” eagerly threatens to call the police and prosecute the “offender”. The perpetrator begs for mercy, the negotiations of bribery begin, and the lost innocence of a devastated child is ignored. Not only has she been sold ---- she's been sold by those who should have been her protectors. The “agents” (usually family members) begin working their deal. “If you pay us $----, then no police..., if no, then we have proof...” More money exchanges hands. The child bleeds in more ways than can be seen.

It's not a trumped up story in a book or headlines on the evening news.
But instead, it is reality for too many little girls.

As she walks to school, struggling to ignore the hot breath of fear on her unprotected neck, she concentrates on holding breakfast down. More food will be long in coming, she needs to keep the ugi down.
Her mother's sister had come to care for her after her mother's death. Auntie Anne was kind and good, the children were safe in her care. But rumors were rumbling and auntie had cautioned little Faith. The family of her deceased father were plotting. Was her father rolling over in his grave? Did he know, his own family wanted to “sell” his daughter? Before that could happen they would have to take her from Auntie Anne, and that would not be an easy thing to do. The community had been alerted, the rumors were being used as a warning, “Protect little Faith, protect all the girls. Trouble is lurking.” So daily, little Faith walked with caution traveling between home and school. No one should walk alone, girls would walk together.

Faith knew she was in danger. But threats could not put schemers behind bars, and absence from school would only cause marks to decline on test day. She had to go, fear had to be beaten.

She released the long-held air from her lungs when she saw her friends waiting under the mishola tree; never even realizing she'd been holding her breath since leaving her auntie's hut. Little Faith kicked off fear as her friends smiled. Feeling safer with them beside her, shoulders shifted under her worn shirt, eyebrows rested above tired brown eyes.

Many miles away, Auntie Eve is praying. She knows the dangers young Faith is facing, and she knows her sister Anne is doing all she can to keep her safe. Eve laments again over the painful moments of seeing her sister's life slip away, leaving three orphans behind. But what can she do to help as this trouble appears on the horizon. She's in Kenya, Anne and Faith are in Uganda; a country spans between them. She prays.

Faith walks with purpose beside the familiar bare feet of her friends. Life is hard for each of them, but they are together. Strength in numbers.They smile at one another.

Laughing together over things little girls find funny, they are almost there.

But a car swerves off the road and rough hands grab at little girls like lion claws. It happens in a flash, but their minds see it all in slow motion.
There are screams.
Joy hides in the bushes as fear snarls.

Before she knows it, her friends disappear and the car lurches wildly down the hole-pocked road.
And what can a thirteen year old little girl do in those moments?

Three friends stand alone, there had been four. As the car disappears, flying dust swallows up their friend. Faith has been taken. Looking at one another, no words come, only screams as they run wildly to school. The headmaster rushes to them listening carefully to their horrid tale. He calls Auntie Anne, she calls the police. They all know little Faith's every breath now hangs by a thread.

Anne in Uganda calls Eve in Kenya as police begin their search and Faith hears only the sounds in her head, of dirt being shoveled onto a hollow wooden lid. It's the first sound she had heard after her mother's face was covered, it's the dark sound that comes when she can not face this pain. Life goes numb.
The aunts know, prayer is the only thing they can do. Thoughts must not be allowed to careen them over the cliff, they must control their minds. Prayers, to the One who sees and knows and can save. Prayer is the only right response when life goes so wrong.

The aunt in Kenya is our own dear Eve. It is her niece who has been taken.
We've met little Faith once, when her mother passed away and we visited the family to show respect.

But now, in these dark days, when little Faith has been kidnapped by the family of her deceased father, Eve's grief became visibly evident. Her heart pained so deeply for her niece, her eyes rarely left the floor. After sharing with us all that was happening in Uganda, our home remained silent as we each went to separate rooms to pray to the only One who could save this stolen child.
We prayed together...
We prayed alone...

For 24 hours few words were shared as we each held to prayer and clung to hope. Internet was down. No emails for prayer could be sent. Prayers don't need internet. Nothing can separate us from the One who is over all things.
It would take the hand of God to rescue this child.
Nothing else could do it.

And i thought to myself ---- how many little girls are treated in these ways, and no cover of prayer reaches into the darkness for them. Oh God, the evilness of mankind, how grievous it is.
Idi Amin trampled over the very ground this little girl was now being consumed by. The soil of that land has soaked up much blood. But Lord, this innocent child, may we see Your hand move these mountains of evil and save her from the monsters who have taken her.

Twenty four hours passed. Prayers stuck in our throats, but tears kept them flowing. Pleading for the life of a child, it can freeze blood in veins.
But that evening, Eve called with the news.

Little Faith had been saved.

The police had surrounded the huts of the deceased father's family. Auntie Anne had been forceful, more demanding than most African women. Carrying witnesses who testified of the plotting family's threats to take the child, this aunt did not stay silent! She did what good people should do, she fought for what was right. “Evil prevails when good people are silent...”
Both aunts were doing all they could; one demanding police attention, the other calling out to God.
And a child was saved.

Worth repeating.

A child was saved.

So often we can get to words like those and we cheer and celebrate and say, “What a great story! How great to know they rescued her from certain horror...”

But when you live up close to the endless flow of the stories, you realize something that maybe can't be seen as easily from a distance.
The child's life is not finished, it's not over for the child. There is still very present danger as she walks the path to school the next day, week, year, decade.
Just because the first plan was foiled by an over-zealous auntie, doesn't mean the destroying evil will fold its hands and sit down. Oh no. We must step out of the mentality that everything is solved and the bad guy is defeated all within the one hour drama, and just in time for a commercial break.

For little Faith is still alive, still breathing, still falling asleep at night hearing the thud of dirt on wood as she ends another day wishing she could have said the words, “I love you mother”.
She's still a little girl with fears, and now she needs to stand stronger than ever before, because she knows what it feels like to be gripped by cruel hands and thrown into the back of a car. Her screams were ignored. She must work that horror back out of her mind. Faith still lives. Faith has more chapters to come. She still is a little girl in Africa, a little girl ------- in Africa -----

So what happened next in her story?

When the police found Faith, her father's family had locked in her a ramshackle shack behind their huts. Plots were being formed as to who they could bribe for the highest price. Perhaps they were planning to let the trauma of the kidnapping pass, or time to let the news of the kidnapping fade, or they might have been planning to send her to another area for the “sell”. Regardless of their reasons, their hesitation gave time for her rescue before she was molested. When the police found her tied in the shack, they untied her, carried her to a nearby safe place, and raided the family compound. But... as evil as the plots were --- no arrests were made. No one was locked up for traumatizing a little girl. No one could be convicted of what they hadn't done...yet. And after all, couldn't they simply say they wanted to visit with their niece and that is why they took her??
So loud words were shared, police intimidated, Faith was rescued, but no one suffered for what they had done. Only the child bore the wounds of it all.

Immediately both aunts began praying and trying to figure out what to do to keep Faith safe.
The fact that she had been saved, could only be celebrated a short time, for the clear presence of real danger was still lurking near. One foiled kidnapping only meant the ruthless family would now hire another to kidnap her again, this time carrying her far away from local eyes.

Eve and Anne, good aunties of Faith, prayed and talked and a plan came clear.
Anne would send little 13 year old Faith on a bus, from Uganda to Kenya, to the waiting arms of Eve. Anne could not travel with her, for she had 2 other children to care for, and travel costs would be too much for them all to travel together. Eve could not go to get her, for she too had 2 small children at home. Eve has four children of her own: one is 20 and out of the home working as a seamstress, another is 17 at boarding school, then twins a boy and girl, 9 years old living with her. Eve is a single mother, having been abandoned by her husband 9 years +9 months ago. The night he left her, he brutalized her terribly intending to end her life. She did not die. Instead, 9 months later she gave birth to twins.
Seven years after that nightmarish night, God moved us to Kenya, and as we asked a dear friend here to let us know if he knew of a good woman who needed a good job, Eve walked into our lives.
Can you see the hand of God at work?
We do.
Eve with her three youngest children - this pic was taken about 1 month before the events shared in this blog took place.

Auntie Eve knows what ruthless hands feel like. She's raising 4 children alone, and now she peacefully says, “It is for me to give little Faith a safe place to grow up. I can do this mom and dad, it's why i've been given a safe home. So she can have a safe place to grow.” Now, again, can you see the beauty of God at work?
We do.

Two days later, little Faith arrives on a bus.
On that same day, two dear friends arrive to visit us from America.
That evening, one of our friends hands us an envelope with $100 and a beautiful note of love and support. Sent from a young lady back home, she simply shared her desire to send the money to be used in whatever way we felt God guiding us.
That night ---- when the dust had settled from the whirl of the day ---- we prayed.
Thanking God for the safe arrival of Faith to Eve's home and our guests to ours.
Thanking God for saving Faith and for blessing Eve with a good home to welcome her into.
Thanking God that our children were safe and sound and had not been taken from us...
Thanking God for dear ones at home who support and love us and help us in countless ways.
And then ---- asking God, “Be sure and show us Lord, where you want your $100 spent...”

No sooner had “Amen” come out of my mouth, than i knew for sure. Like a wave on the ocean's shoreline, it rolls all around you, leaving you standing in the same spot, but you know you've been touched.
The money had been sent weeks before --- from America --- and it was for little Faith's needed school fees. The money had begun it's journey to us, even before she had been kidnapped. Her Abba knew what would be needed and where. That money has now paid for little Faith's school fees for one whole year. She sleeps peacefully tucked safe inside her Auntie Eve's little two room home, with cousins to play with and a good school with new friends.

These days, little Faith is found walking with her cousins to a nearby school, wearing a new school uniform and shiny, black leather shoes AND sparkling white socks. She smiles. She's a whole country away from those who plotted dark schemes.
She's safe.
She has a future ahead of her.

And the sound of dirt hitting hollow wood is beginning to fade away.
Instead she closes her eyes at night, to the sounds of giggles and prayers and love all around her --- and morning's light brings still more of the same.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oh the places He is found...

It says... “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” Right there in front of my eyes, David said it, wrote it down, in another age, so long ago. But the words still speak into today. The Creator cares about and offers shelter to all humanity, and not just in a mansion on a secluded hillside, but also in a shack in the bowels of humanity. The Word says all humanity finds shelter in the shadow of His wings. And the shadow of His wing is found right up under His shoulder, up close, b-e-s-i-d-e Him.

Oh the places He can be found...

“Come pray for a little girl please, she is very sick, and she needs many prayers...”
Those words carried our feet on the packed-earth pathway that weaves between mud slathered walls holding up rusty roofs, with a tangle of twine tied from this one to that one holding dripping dry laundry washed in muddy waters from the stream at the bottom of the hill. Those tight, closed in places where living souls are trying to breathe and live in the midst of stagnant air and... too much evil. We walk quickly, as no good would come from pausing beside the overly friendly men sitting beside the bowl of fresh cooked brew. Here, you walk with purpose, with intent.
We arrive at the doorway and step inside, leaving the bright light of day and entering into darkness.
Eyes must be given time to adjust, if i don't give them time, i'll stumble in the darkness...
As eyes adjust, so does my soul. An adjusting soul doesn't need time as much as it needs the whispering of prayers. God's Word tells us to “Guard our hearts above all else, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23
So when entering “dark places”, it is right to be diligent to put a guard over our hearts.
Prayers are right when we step from light to dark.

Some might say --- we shouldn't go there --- we should protect ourselves best by not going to the dark places...
But my soul has heard His voice speak clearly in my heart --- why have you been given such a great Light if you are not willing to carry it into the darkness?...?...?

Two steps from the blue sky canopy, the rusty tin holds many shadows. But the sounds inside the tiny hut are sweet. A mama speaking softly in Swahili and a child making childlike sounds and my eyes adjust. And slowly by slowly i begin to see. Within the four-wall room that is their home, a mother holds her five year old daughter. The treasure in her arms wears not a stitch of clothing but the mother holds her close ---- you can feel the love in the room. Her daughter's head is dramatically dis-proportionate to her body, the little girl's head is larger than her own mother's. She struggles to hold it up, but she works hard to do so because she has a smile to share --- and her smile ---- is a carrier of intense J-O-Y.
This naked child suffering from an accumulation of fluid on her brain (hydrocephalus), is a giver of joy... and the story told by her mother's eyes needs no language of the ear... this child is loved.
In this slum area tucked in Africa where much is needed... my senses focus in on one thing ---- love.

My human eyes go to war with my heart --- because my eyes want to shoot arrows of “this is SO WRONG” -- but my heart rests in an other-worldly place ---- responding to my humanness by whispering solidly ---- she is loved ---- she is loved ---- she is loved ---- she smiles with joy ---- she knows what it is to be deeply loved ---- look at her mother's eyes ----- she is dearly loved...

One of the things i have learned here in Kenya is that a child with a birth defect is rarely abused by those who do evil things (molesters, abusers, rapist, etc.) because they are “afraid” of catching the “curse” they believe she carries. They usually will not even touch the child.
So this treasured one, is not molested by wicked hands. And that is a great merciful blanket that surrounds her unclothed shoulders.
Her mother holds her as we talk, a translator helps me understand what the mother shares. Little Mary is her third child, two others are older. Mary's father is a good man who sells fruit and vegetables in town to provide for his family. The mother gathers wood in the nearby forest, she then sells to her elderly neighbors. She says of her husband, “He is a good man...” Those are golden words to hear from the mouth of a woman in a slum in Africa, few women can speak those words in these places.
Time slows down...
In a world that struggles with the rush of busy, here, in these moments, it slows down.
Time slows down for little ones like Mary and the kind mother who holds her.
The outside world is shut off from these places. No electricity lines in these alleyways, no television shows invade here, no internet, no emails, no social media presenting its fabricated appearances. Life is raw and basic ---- food and shelter and water take priority --- there is little time for other things chased after by the masses who live beyond the horizon.

We've been asked to come and pray. We've not been asked to come and fix... or change... or “do”. We've been asked to p-r-a-y.
Again – the priority is solid and clear.
This mother does not know what is wrong with her much-loved child. But she DOES KNOW that praying for her beautiful daughter is what is needed. Prayer... simple, earnest, heart-felt prayer.

We pray...
And little Mary rolls her head from side to side. But as i pray, she blesses me with rays of JOY as she works hard to hold her head steady long enough to be sure i see-her-smile-of joy. It's all she has to give............ and she works hard to give it ............. and i know.......... Jesus is present.

The mother wiped eyes that grew wet as we called out to the One she knows loves her daughter too.
Simple faith --- in a far from perfect place.
Pure love --- in a hard and dirty world.
Complete joy --- in a child's eyes who knows nothing beyond the place where she lives.
...and i'm amazed beyond belief at the magnitude of the wave that rolls through me.

As i leave their hut, i try and help the two dear friends who are with me in their processing of what they just saw and how they are internally responding to it. We usually respond internally before we take action externally (we should), so healthy internal processing can lead to better external thoughts/actions. I know they are stunned – shocked --- overwhelmed perhaps (likely).
Less than a week prior they were doing life in America --- today they met “life” in a completely different setting. Every sense is challenged and all those questions impact the heart before dripping down into the soul. And the processing of it is an important step, for the soul to be impacted in God-honoring ways.
The enemy of our souls is ever watchful and eager to make us view things in distorted ways. He's always looking to make God appear a liar (that hasn't changed since Gen. 3: 1-5).
So as my guests and i walked and talked, i encouraged them to try and “see” little Mary's world from her eyes. She is l-o-v-e-d. She is cared for by the tender, gentle hands of a mother and father --- that is rare in this world. She is fed, and held, and washed, and safe. She actually has more joy and contentment that many children who live in fine places.
We look at her and see neediness ----- SHE DOES NOT.
And we must be careful. We must seek God diligently before we let her see “our” eyes and impose on her a look of pity. Pity would be a mystery to her. For she lives wrapped in joy and love.
Oh it's a hard moment indeed.
But it's part of the “i must decrease and HE must increase” that's found in John 3:30.
We must learn that our Abba does great things in hard places... He doesn't have to have polished, pretty, well-decorated rooms to work His great miracles.
And in this world ------- isn't the presence of complete joy and love ---- a miracle?
Our minds might want to demand that healing would be the right miracle... but would we overlook the miracle of joy and love in the midst of sickness?

I've learned many hard lessons living so far from all that was familiar and comfortable.
I've sat long and silently (imagine that miracle in itself:) -- and looked up.
And i've embraced the suffering that happened at the Cross – where the blood of the Innocent One flowed down on the souls of the guilty masses – and the miracle of salvation was birthed through unimaginable pain.
And i've learned... that my Abba can work so beautifully in places where we weaker ones shrink back. He's not afraid of suffering. He's not afraid of pain. He knows exactly what to do with it. He works miracles in the places we hesitate to touch.

So in the processing with my dear guests, i asked them, “do you think we should immediately cast a net to the many who love us and love God – and raise funds to have a needed surgery to place a shunt in little Mary's body? Do you think the risk of invading her body through surgery done here (not in America, but here, where surgery here looks very different) and with recovery time required, in the place she lives now – do you think that is for sure the right thing for her? Do you think we should “rescue” her from her home, the only place she has ever known, and bring her into our home, for a safe recovery --- where her mother and father will not be able to be beside her... because they will have to remain in their hut so squatters don't take it from them? And what do you think will happen to her little heart, her mind, her soul --- if she endures the surgery, recovers in our home, then goes back to her home w-o-n-d-e-r-i-n-g ---- why? Why is her home so different, why does water not flow threw a pipe, why does light not hang from the ceiling, why...why...why? And in those moments do we really think the enemy of her soul will miss the chance to drain her of the valueable love and joy she now glimmers with?
She will always need follow up surgeries...
She will always need a clean place to live...
She will always need good medical care...
For her to live long --- she will need these things.

But i've learned another hard lesson here.
Life is valuable, this i learned many years ago as a child. But living long is not the most important thing about life. The value of life is found in the way it is lived. What we do with it, how we share it, if we love others with it...
Do you know anyone who lives their life for themselves? What they want? How they can get what they want? Who they can use to get what they want? Distracted... from the needs of others because of the many distractions they surround themselves with...
Are they living well?
But it might possibly look like they are, if we just view the “outside” of them.

If we just look at the outside of little Mary's life, we could wrongly judge it and say, she needs to be rescued from the one room shack in the middle of a slum...
But if we pause long enough to feel the joy-of-the-Lord in the radiance of her smile --- we can more accurately see the good LIFE in her. Perhaps she was placed exactly where she is, by the hand of a God ---- who because of His great love --- also placed His Son on the cross.
Abba can work miracles in desperately hard places.
And we can feel the intense weakness of ourselves in those same hard places.
Doesn't He remind in His word --- that “in our weakness, He is strong”.

I asked my young visitors to let God guide them carefully as they processed little Mary's situation. Not to view it through “American”, “Western-world”, “save-the-world” thinking. But instead to allow themselves to face their helplessness and in that moment choose to see God's able-ness to do all that is needed regarding His precious little Mary. Then ---- in those moments --- in closet-prayer-with-Him --- ask Him if HE would have them do anything according to His good plans for her.

I did the same. I prayed fervently in the same way.
Oh it can feel so wrong to not jump in with everything we've got --- thinking, “this is wrong and i must do something...”
But in the quietness of “being still and knowing that HE IS GOD” --- peace flows strong to trust Him and believe, He knows what He is doing and i----- do-------not.

Perhaps you're reading these words (if you've made it this far) ---- and you might be thinking --- this woman is a nut! I'll laugh with you there and say, i might just be.
But all i can do is learn what my Abba is teaching me --- and trust what He is doing ---- and when He says jump in --- may my feet clear the ground at “j”.
But when He says, h-o-l-d steady --- i'm doing a work that doesn't need your hands ---- may i sit still and pray.

It's a part of “He must increase...”

The hard truth is this...
Precious smiling Mary will likely not live to the fullness of 80 years. She will most likely succumb to an illness sooner rather than later. But the life she is living right now in the little hut of her mother and father who love and care for her --- is rich.
She sparkles with joy. She rests in love. She is content with the sounds of her mother and father around her. She brings Light into a dark place. She proves, things do not have to be perfect in order for them to be good. She preaches the good words ---- “under His wing, refuge is found”.
And His wing is not limited in where it can reach.

Mary will someday leave this earth --- just as we all will.

But i am most certain of this one thing ---- when her little brown feet step into her Maker's Heaven, her head will not falter when that sparkling crown is placed on it. And she will not need help when she lifts it from her normal-sized brow and places it at the feet of the One she is well acquainted with. And her days here may be shortened only to allow them to be increased in a land where there is no suffering, where the lion lays beside the lamb, and no disease or sickness is found.

Guide us Lord ---- help us Father -----
to see things more with Your eyes
and realize how very needy we ALL are
for more of You
and Your ways.

And Lord --- thank you for the JOY you have placed inside of little Mary. Help her Lord to shine Your love in a dark place. Bless her momma and daddy, give them all they need, fill their hut with your greatness, and if you choose to ask us to action on your behalf regarding Mary, we are most willing. We trust You and what You are doing --- more than we trust ourselves and what we would do. So you guide ---- and we will follow.

Oh Lord --- thank you for being God.
Thank you for little Mary.

And thank you for little Joseph --- that precious little baby you put in front of me just four days ago. With his ulcered skin sores and whimpering attempts to scratch them ---
Thank you that with him you whispered so surely, this one... this one... get him the help he needs. And now already, the meds are working and he is being healed.

Oh the places You are found...

“God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm 9:18

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mr. and Mrs. Goose --- simple LIVING

Yesterday i bought Ernest Hemingway's “The Snows of Kilmanjaro” for our oldest son, this morning i write sitting beside that mountain. It's snowy peak often hides behind the high clouds, hence its name, “the shy mountain”.
In front of me is a sprinkling of much lesser mountains, they lay across the western side of Tsavo. Their peaks are too many to number and they're wrapped in acacia trees. They've been well watered this morning as rains came with the sunrise. But now, rainclouds have given way to blue and the trees sparkle, like cared for children in the cradle of these mountains.
Steve and Peter have gone for an early morning game-drive. Usually i would be beside them, but my safari (journey) this morning will find me sitting still; opting to “be still” to think ---- pray ---- read ----- write ---. Rather than going to look for the animals, i will wait and see what comes to me.

The field in front of me is home to an Egyptian goose. Smaller than the rocks around it --- it's captured my attention. How very “odd” i realize i have become. The giraffe mother and here babe have just disappeared back into the tall acacia, but it's the little goose who holds my rapt focus. Last night he peacefully sat alone beside the watering hole.

He weighs maybe 3 pounds soaking wet and his “hang” is a watering hole in Africa surrounded by animals that dwarf him in every way --- yet, he moves about as if “all is well”. Last night the zebra, who fear the darkness behind them, inched closer and closer to the watering hole. Mr. Goose glided out of the water, settled his webbed feet on the shoreline, and held his position without ruffling a feather. Did he not realize dozens of sharp hooves surrounded him, and each held the power to end him? But almost as if he had been given the assignment to “be still” --- and “fear not” ---- that little goose silently preached to me, as i sat all comfy in my safari chair drinking tea (on the outside) and yet deep inside i was squirming with discontentment and worry.
I know... i'm not suppose to actually admit that am i?
but sometimes i do wonder --- who among us, wrapped in dust and clay, doesn't have their moments of trembling?? If we did not know what trembling felt like, would we ever really reach for Abba's “be still and know that I AM GOD”?

Egyptian geese mate for life. They are rarely found alone. If you see one alone, then it is likely either eating while its mate roosts on their clutch of eggs or it hasn't found its life-mate yet. But for sure it will not rest until it finds the one it will live with for the rest of its days. A ranger once shared with us his great admiration of the feathery foul. He shared, “They will mate for life and they mean it. They are born with the need to be faithful to one and only one. They will live together for years and travel together always. On the day that one of them dies, the other will soon follow.” We asked how that could be. He explained further, “On the day the male goose dies, the female will simply stop eating. She will slowly kill herself by starvation. But if the female dies first, the male will begin searching for her. Even if he sees her death, in disbelief, he will fly to each of the many places they have nested over their years together. He will search for her. As he visits each place where she has been, and finds she is not there, he will fly on to the next place where he remembers being with her. When he has exhausted all possibilities, he makes one final flight, straight up. He beats wings hard to fly to the highest place he will ever go, then when he can ascend no further, he folds his wings for the last time and plummets to the ground below. It is his way of ending himself. He will not live without his she-goose.” The ranger ended by telling us how much he knew Kenyan men could learn from the little goose. We knew he told us the story because he knew of our call to minister to marriages, but did he know how deeply the story moved us. And don't we all need to know of the faithful little goose? Husbands and wives in every country on every continent. We need to realize there are feather-covered-faithful ones that sparkle with a goodness we skin-covered-souls often struggle to emulate.

Last night as i lay my head down, i pondered on the lone goose by the watering hole.
He was the picture of what i should be ----- he was doing it so well.
I found myself in class again. Time to learn, from a wee feathered creature in a dangerous place.
My heart was engaged because ---- he was ----- alone.
Egyptian geese are not suppose to be alone. It's instinctively placed inside them to have a companion – another goose --- one goose – beside them.
As i closed my eyes i wondered if he would still be by the muddy water in the morning. Imagine my lunacy as i thought to myself how i would like to go out to the waters edge, scoop him up in my arms, shower him off good, and let him be my little buddy for the rest of his days. He should not be alone... i would be his friend. (Surely Abba shakes His great head so often at me.)

This morning as i write ---- i smile --- for it is being proven to me, Mr. Goose is not alone after all. Mrs. Goose is right there beside him...
They're walking about stirring up seeds and bugs, having their morning feast together. And even as i ponder over where she was last night, i watch as he waddles over to a hidden nest in a grassy mound tucked carefully out of the way. It's nestled at the high edge of another watering hole, where few animals would consider going. Smoother slopes are plentiful, that's where thirsty animals would more likely drink from. The short escarpment edge is the perfect spot to grow their littles. Mr. Goose now sits, hidden, on the nest. Mrs. Goose is foraging about, appearing to be the lone goose now ---- but how thankful my heart is, to know she is not alone. They are together. They are working together. It's just her turn to walk about and eat, while he tends their treasured eggs. And i'm reminded --- he moved about during the more dangerous hours, when prey huddles near the watering hole and predators stretch muscles for a late night hunt.

He was not alone
She is not alone.
They know who they are and who they belong to and what they are doing.
And they do it.

The lilac-breasted roller glides into the acacia near by, with all its brilliant colors of blue and lavender, it moves about so freely and captures the attention of all who see its flight. What a beautiful bird.
Mrs. Goose neither notices its glamorous arrival nor cares when it flies on. She doesn't ponder after its colorful flight, lamenting over her drab brown and grey plumage. She does not let her focus or her peace be intimidated by the flair of the other foul. She walks and eats, and holds faithful to the course before her.
Just now she has paused to look up and to the right. She stares, something is in the bush and she watches. She eats nothing in these moments. She focuses closely. She's the very picture of confidence.
A goose can teach.
The movement in the bush ends (likely a mouse or lizard), she turns back to the ground. She doesn't fluster or fume --- she's neither fearful nor irritated. She attends to her “calling”. Graze and keep watch, then sit on the eggs and keep watch... graze and keep watch...sit on the eggs and keep watch.
A goose can teach.
Guinea fowl now approach her. She cares not. She doesn't run them off, selfishly gorging herself on the few seeds around her. She just peacefully continues eating. Guinea's are adorable birds who look like little helmets running about in the open field. Hence their name, the helmeted guinea. With blue heads and a rounded body covered with white-polka-dotted black feathers, they run about comically. They are surely the most ADHD bird in Africa. They travel in flocks, many of them in a grouping.
Does Mrs. Goose look at them and wonder, “why can't i have more of my kind around me?”
i watch her and i know the answer ----- she does not.

She is not a guinea fowl. She is a goose. She has an assignment in life, and if she ponders the guinea or the roller, it will only distract her from the faithful attention that is needed to be who she is and do what she is suppose to do.
A goose beside a muddy water hole in a dangerous place ---- can teach.

... do others think on the same sort of things?
... or am i perhaps “alone” in my learning.

There are those among us who are intensely l-o-n-e-l-y. Even surrounded by people, aloneness can still come.

Some will distract themselves from the sense of aloneness by
a hobby --- something to do ---
or work --- something to accomplish ---
or buying ----- something to have ----
or going --- somewhere to be ---
or watching ---- something to entertain ----
or medicating --- someway not to feel ----
or drinking ---- someway to numb ----
or retreating --- someway to hide ---
or succeeding --- someway to feel significant ---
or dominating --- someway to feel powerful ---
or denying --- someway to feel innocent ---
or defending --- someway to feel right ---
it goes on and on.

Mr. and Mrs. Goose ---- they need none of this. They have a purpose, and they are sticking to it. No distractions are allowed, they know the frailty of life and the need for careful attention to the work they are called to. It's simple. It's sure. They won't change the world; they won't take from it. They will do their small part in it.
Brennan Manning seemed to be sitting at my table this morning, speaking ever so clearly with his writings in “Abba's Child”. He begins chapter eight with a powerfully blunt excerpt from Anthony DeMello's book “The Way to Love”.
DeMello writes, “ Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, conform to their standards, seek their company, desire their love, dread their ridicule, long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you; you are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act or even think. And observe how even when you control them you depend on them and are enslaved by them. People have become so much a part of your being that you cannot even imagine living a life that is unaffected or uncontrolled by them.”

I've read it over and over again.
And... i think of Jesus, and how He does not fit inside the lines of that paragraph. He neither tried to control others nor did He allow others to have control over him. Instead, He was mastered only by His Father and because of that, He loved ------ perfectly.
Ghandi's words echo again --- “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Did Ghandi perhaps feel this way in part because we Christians so often look like DeMello's paragraph and our Christ looked/looks nothing like it.

Mrs. Goose was teaching this very lesson, better put, she was living this very way.
Even as i write, i laugh at myself.
Is it ludicrous to watch a couple of geese, consider how they live, and see something worth learning?

We might say --- they are only geese, they do not have the pressures of human life imposed on them --- they are born, they procreate, they survive until they die, and that is all there is for a goose. Human beings have so many more demands placed upon us.
But do we really? Or do we impose so much more on ourselves?

Is it possible that the simple, focused, living of the geese by the watering hole holds golden lessons we are too busy to notice.
There are many differences for sure, but if we are wise, we will allow ourselves to learn from their silent sharing.
And for today --- as i seek to learn --- i see this clearly.
The mother and father geese are peaceful and gentle. If husbands and wives could interact as these geese do ----- there would be no broken homes with wounded children limping for years after the cave-in.
They are focused on exactly what is their part ---
------ they graze and eat
------ they stay near enough to help each other
-------they are always watchful against those who would cause harm
------ they are not concerned over what other birds think of them
------ they don't criticize or judge other birds either
------ they share what is around them and never complain
------ they are thankful for another day of living, they know how close death is
------ they never sleep too deeply nor celebrate to loudly (for they know there is always something lurking near willing to end them)
------ they don't compare themselves to others, and they don't tell other birds how they should behave.

They are focused ---- content ----- peaceful ---- persevering ---- dedicated.

In their solidarity and autonomy, they do not view their simple life as empty or lonely.
They could...
But they do not.
As i watch the pair of simple geese, i rethink DeMello's words, and see that not one line applies to their life.
Just as not one line of it applied to Jesus' life.
When we think of Jesus's life, some might say, “well of course Jesus could live that way, after all, He is God in the form of man...”. So does that mean we don't press ourselves (as we should), to try and live like Him. But what can we say in defense of ourselves when we see two little geese living it well beside a watering hole in Africa. They are not controlled by the need to please or placate others – they do not crave the approval of others – they do not cringe over rejection of other feathery companions. They simply live well --- according to the assignment they have been given in their lives.
Perhaps we might say, “well, their assignment is simple...”

And to this my heart hears this truth ----- our assignment is simple as well ----- in whatever we do, wherever we are found, in every moment we breathe another breath --- we are called to one sure thing ---- we are to love others.

There is a way to live focused --- peaceful --- content --- and faithful.
Sharp hooves might surround us (unkind people saying unkind things, threatening to do even worse if they can).
Hyenas might approach (those who look for death and then will devour us with bone crushing jaws that make us tremble).
Feathered beauties might fly near (those who look, act, and sound perfect and who work to feel better about themselves as they compare their opulence to our simple walk).
Or crowds of activity might swirl 'round us (when the life of others seems to be filled with “more” and we sit in our simplicity of “less”).

But if we can keep our focus on “why” we are alive --- then we too can make it through the dark nights by the watering holes.
And the morning light will find us ----------
doing what we were created to do ------------
loving God and loving others.

Simple living that honors the One who made us, blesses those around us, and allows the one beside us to never feel alone (no matter how dark the night).