Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tiny Seeds

Recently I led worship on a Sunday afternoon on "6 West," the inpatient Psych ward at the hospital in town. Going in it is easy to wonder what good it will do.  Does it change anything for those who come?  How does this 45 minutes impact those who, with such deep needs, show up?

On this particular Sunday I began our time together with a verse from Psalm 17,  "Guard me as the apple of your eye.  Hide me in the shadow of your wings." Do you remember how hard it is to believe this when you are at the lowest of your lows?  Really? God sees me as the apple of his eye? 

Then I told the parable of the Mustard Seed.  If we have only a tiny seed of the Kingdom of God planted inside us we will grow.  There will be movement.  That seed is a living, active thing.  It pushes through the dirt, the asphalt, the rocks.  It reaches up to the air, the sunshine, the rain, to God.  Jesus didn't say plant a grain of sand.  A grain of sand won't grow a beach, but a living.  A seed of faith grows day by day.  It doesn't turn into a great bush overnight.  Sometimes we have trouble telling that it is growing, but it does.  It is a process, and eventually we begin to perceive that God notices me...God is with me...God does guard me as the apple of his eye: and then sometimes we forget all over again.  But God persists.  He wants us to know in the depths of our being how precious we are in his eyes.

It was a good word for those who have trouble imagining that kind of love and acceptance.  It seemed to make a difference.  The Holy Spirit can do that, even in the most challenging situations. I'll never really know if there was lasting impact, but that afternoon I planted seeds. That's what I can do. 

As I was signing out the staff told me that one of the guys had never been able to sit through anyof the previous session of counseling, group therapy, etc.  But I believe that the quiet gentle way of telling the story, like we do in Children and Worship created fertile soil for the kingdom seed.  And maybe faith grew a little bit, and we believed a little more that just maybe we are the apple of God's eye, even in our most distressed state. Maybe we can huddle in the shadow of God's wings until we can grow a little more faith and can face tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What good can come out of ????

For those of us with much biblical awareness we recognize that just about everything is upside down in Jesus' Kingdom perspective.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  The wisdom of God is foolishness in the world.  The least is the greatest.  The poor are blessed and the rich are brought down.

God took me down one of those roads last week as I have been working on fundraising for Haiti.  I was scheduled to speak at a Mother/Daughter banquet at my aunt's church.  It is a little Presbyterian church in the little town of Cambria, about 400 people.  I wondered what God might be up to in this little, off the beaten path village.

I had traveled home from Holland, MI earlier that day, which is about a six hour trip. I showered, changed, gathered up my projection and computer equipment, plus brochures, jewelry I was selling, etc. and dashed off to Cambria, a 2 hour trip west, picking up my mom on the way.

I was weary, and thinking, "What good can come from Cambria?"  much like Nathanael asked when told by Philip, "We have found the one that Moses wrote about in the law, the one the prophets foretold, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!"   Nazareth, that little podunk village?  You are talking about the Messiah here! God wouldn't let the Messiah come from that scrappy little village, that nowhere.  Everyone needs to know that he is here...a little fanfare would help. Nazareth, ha.

I know better, but sometimes I get sucked into thinking I need to find people with lots of money, discretionary funds that they would be willing to invest in Haiti.  And there may be those people out there, but in my wiser moments I also realize it is usually the humble, the "nobodies from nowhere"  that have hearts open to God's spirit of generosity.

And so wearily I arrived in Nazareth...I mean Cambria, and met with about 35 wonderful sisters in Christ. We shared a meal, a potluck, with tables overflowing, and I shared my story of what God is doing through Help the Youth and Beautiful Response in Haiti.  Humble, compassionate, generous hearts were opened and the people of Haiti were blessed.  Three students will be able to go to school next year because people who have never met them care, people who had never met me before that evening opened their hearts and pocket books.

Once again I learned my lessons in the upside-downness of the Gospel.   My heart was warmed and I hope and pray that they will welcome me again.  Cambria is a good place for Jesus to show up and blessings to flow.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ice chips! So Yummy!

Last week I had a nasty bout of stomach flu.  Very possibly the worst episode of activity leading up to dehydration I've ever hard. (Wasn't that nicely worded :)  At 2:00 in the morning I wanted to guzzle glasses of water, but knew that my system wasn't ready for that. So I made Al get up and get me a glass of ice chips.

Oh my goodness! It tasted so good.  I would eat a spoonful of chips and then force myself to wait about 20 minutes to eat some more.  As I relished these delightful chips of cold clear water I thought, "If I never eat anything again but ice chips I'll be fine. I"ll never put anything in water again to change the taste, no tea, no coffee, no gatorade, nothing but cool clear water!

I know, a little overboard, but it was real in the moment.

My thirst led to thoughts about Jesus, the living water.  Jesus, the one who quenches our thirst.  I thought about what makes me spiritually thirsty.  How much do I long for more of Jesus?  What sets Jesus apart from from all other spiritual nourishment and refreshment? What wakes me up to my need for Jesus, the living water?  Do I long for what Jesus offers me?

Often I drink most deeply when I'm also weeping most deeply.  Perhaps tears of sorrow, but also tears of awe for the fact that Jesus is present, real.  For me it happens through worship times when the words of a song or hymn just connect with my spirit to nourish me, or the Scripture speaks into the longing of my heart, or convicts me of sins I need to deal with.  Sometimes in prayer with others the community is so strong and Jesus presence is so sweet it feels like fresh rain. And sometimes the chaos in the world is so overwhelming I long for the Living Water to flood over me, to lift me out of the fear and muck I feel mired in.  Living Water...always available to wash us clean, set us free, nourish our souls, quench our thirst.

I'm wondering when it happens for you?   When do you find yourself longing for the Living Water?  

Looking Ahead

This is a big year!  Our son, Cory, turns 40.  I turn 65. I know, those of you who know me can't believe it :)  and neither can I, and Al turns 70; even harder to believe...but all true!  How does this happen?

So we are acknowledging that, even though we are still working hard, we are in our "golden years." Multiple trips to Haiti each year, visits to our kids and grandkids in Australia.  Life that is full and rich, even in the midst of the current chaos in the country.

Then there is the reality that we need to plan ahead...without knowing how much "Ahead" there is; 10 years, twenty years, thirty years, tomorrow?  As we contemplate this our thoughts run to Haiti. How can we ensure that the work that is being done through Beautiful Response and Help the Youth continues.  We are not in this for the short-term!  The needs are long-term: and we have children who will need assistance to become all God has created them to be for many years.  We are in for the long-haul.

When God first turned our hearts back to Haiti we realized it would involve raising funds.  Our first response was, "But God, you know we are not good fund raisers!"  (Yep, God knew, and assured us he would be the provider we needed.)  Today we look back on God's faithfulness, and ahead realizing that we need to set up a trust or foundation to provide a base for the fundraising that will need to continue.

On the one hand that is very intimidating for us. Again, WAY out of our comfort zone!  On the other hand it is very exciting.  How will God provide?  Who will come forward to give?  What will this need to look like?  Where are the "cattle on a thousand hills" that God has reserved to help his children in Haiti?  Where will we get the boldness to invite people to be a part of something life changing for so many people?  How much, Oh Lord?  How many people will be blessed in the giving and receiving?

We are also mindful that we need to watch for the next generation of leaders to take on this ministry 5, 10, 15? years down the road.  Who will God raise up?  Who will find their calling in joining this partnership with our Haitian friends?  Who will fall in love with God's leaders as well as the children of Haiti?

Big questions...big challenges!  We need your prayers!  We need your eyes and ears.  Please join us in the quest for big hearts and the ability to invest emotionally, spiritually and financially in the work God is doing through Beautiful Response in Haiti.  So many of you are dear to our hearts.  We thank you for your love and support!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

More Prayer?

I am so excited about the opportunity I am having to bless and invest into the lives of "young" moms.  Friday one of them said, "Yeah, but I'm the oldest of the "young moms."  So perhaps I should say, "The next generation."  I get to be the mentor that Pat Doolittle, Christine Noorlaag, Jo Bush, Shirley Borgman, and so many others were to me; beautiful women who are/were a little farther down the road of life than me.

Friday some of us were meeting for a Bible Study. It was a semester break day, so there were children playing while we met. Sometimes people are tempted to cancel, or postpone when the kids will be with them.  I'm so glad we didn't on this Friday.  

Part way through the morning we paused for a time of listening as we did a guided imagery prayer. In the midst of our silence, from around the corner, we heard 6 year old Judah softly singing, "Change the atmosphere, build your kingdom here, we pray."  Sometimes that is what listening for God sounds like.

Mary has two little adopted boys from an eastern european country. They are 5-6 years old, and both have Down's Syndrome.  We had been meeting for about an hour and a half and Jonah, who is quite non-verbal, was ready to go home. He climbed up on his mom's lap and was whining a little.  I said I was going to close in prayer and he settled down.  I prayed for the families and said Amen.  Jonah looked at his mom and signed, "more prayer."  His mom asked him if that was what he wanted and he signed again, "More prayer."  I prayed for Jonah rubbing his back, and he then was all ready to go.  It was beautiful and humbling. 

There are times we get reminded of what we really seek and how God wants to show up.
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:13

"And a little child will lead them."  Isaiah 11:6

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Go out!

Manite, a Haitian friend greeted me and said, "I'm going to go out and preach the gospel!"  During the week there had been evangelism training by their local pastor, and prayer meetings in preparation, and now they were heading for nearby villages to preach the gospel. (Romans 10:14 How can they hear unless someone preaches to them?)

It was Friday morning and we were in Haiti.  The truck had been loaded with pots and pans, rice and beans, veggies and even beef and chicken. It was loaded with Haitian students who would be cleaning veggies and beans, tending fires, and setting rocks at just the right angles for the huge cast iron pots. We were cooking up a feast for a beach party in Con Crab, a nearby village. We played games with the children, we slivered green beans with half a razor blade, and a village was fed. "Together we preached the gospel."  (James 2:16 Suppose a brother or sister is in need of clothing or food, If one of you says, "Go in peace, keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?)

I walked through the village with one of our team.  We found an albino grandmother with a huge sore on her leg, and another elderly woman with a tumor on her back the size of a baseball.  They invited us into their humble homes, so glad we had come. We brought them food from the feast and prayed with them. It didn't matter that we knew so little Creole, Jesus was there. "Together we preached the Gospel." (Colossians 3:14 Above all else, clothe yourself with love, which binds us all together in perfect love.)

All week long we SAW the Gospel being lived out...sometimes we had the joy of being part of it. All week long we HEARD the Gospel being lived out in songs and prayers, in thanksgiving and petition, in laughter and cries.
All week long we FELT the Gospel being lived out in JOY and LOVE, in HOPE in the midst of weariness.  It has been a tough time for all of them.

I have to admit it is easier to see the Gospel...the Good News...being lived out in Haiti than it is here in the US; at least for me it is. I think about the quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, "At all times preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words."

The Gospel is certainly needed here as much as in Haiti.  I long to see it: justice, mercy, love, compassion, encouragement, joy, hope, kindness, faithfulness, humility, forgiveness...good news for the poor, the captives, and that's us as well.

Let's go out and be it!  That is our calling as Jesus followers, and the world certainly needs us to be all God calls us to be.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Eyes, Ears and Spirit Engaged

Do you know this story from Luke 7:36-50?

Jesus went to a dinner hosted by pharisees, people he knew were probably trying to trick him, rather than really listen to him.

A woman with a well-known, less than glowing reputation entered the courtyard with a bottle of perfume. She proceeded to anoint Jesus feet and wipe them with her hair and tears.

There was tension in the room.  This woman had the ability to "defile" you by just touching you, and Jesus was allowing her to do this to him.

There was tension...there was smugness...there was disdain...AND there was love...there was peace...there was forgiveness.

Al preached on this a couple of weeks ago.  We looked at the pharisees, and the forgiven woman, but what really struck me was looking at Jesus.  Ever since I have been drawn back to this story to contemplate Jesus presence through it all.

While the room is abuzz with the smugness and disdain, Jesus is enjoying the love poured out by the forgiven woman.  He doesn't listen to the voices in the room.  John records several times when Jesus says, "I only do what I see the Father do.  I only say what I hear the Father say."  This is the voice to which he is totally tuned in.

Then he says to Simon, "Simon, we need to talk."  He reminds Simon of what he has not done for his "guest."  He tells a short parable.  He then blesses the woman.

What struck me was Jesus' non-anxious presence in that space.  He is so tuned in to the Father he knows what is truth...he knows what he needs to do...he refuses to be ensnared by the response of others.

I want to be more like Jesus.  I want to be that non-anxious presence in tension filled places.  But, I realize I need to be more disciplined about listening to the Father; better at seeing how God is at work in the world, and my little corner of it.

In our tension filled world today, maybe we need to start by kneeling at the feet of Jesus and asking him to teach us what that looks like for each one of us.

Lord, where are you calling me to be a presence for you?  Teach me to listen for your voice.  Help me to rise above the fear that seeks to blind us to your truth.  Calm my heart and fill me with courage and confidence in you, my Rock and my Salvation.