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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sowing Seed and Watching Them Grow

"I do not sow my seeds on the rocks.  I sow my seeds on the good soil!"  These were the words out of TiCarme's mouth after we met with the director of the trade school where Lynx, one of our Haitian students is learning to be a mechanic.  We had just been told that he was at the top of his class, a leader and a great addition to the student body.  TiCarme glowed like the "mom" she is to all 100 of these students.

I spent 4 days in Haiti with Kevin and Sandra Ernst.  Kevin is a professional film-maker and is donating his time and talents to making a promotional video for Beautiful Response, our US fundraising side of this work.  I can't wait to see what Kevin produces!!  The goal was to capture the heart of what God is doing in Haiti through Help The Youth, and as the days progressed I could see Kevin and Sandra making that heart connection.

In the eyes, smiles and stories of the students and leaders HOPE shone through.  Here was an island of hope in the midst of so much despair.  These were lives impacted by the love of God and grace of Jesus.  At one point Sandra commented on the appropriateness of our name, "Beautiful Response."  She said, "It is the perfect name. You can't come here and meet these people and not have your heart changed.  You can't go away without responding to what God is doing!"  They weren't drawn only to responding to the needs...there are huge needs which can be completely overwhelming, but they were responding to the HOPE that exists because God is at work through the Haitian leaders and students.

Like TiCarme we sowed our seed in good soil when we invited them to join us in Haiti.  They are donating all of their time in Haiti and the time Kevin will spend producing the video stateside.  What a gift!  They are also committed for the long haul...hearts touched, beautifully responding, telling others!

Al and I covered their airfare and in country expenses, enabling them to go down.  We know it was seed well sown.  If you would be willing to help us with those expenses we would be most grateful!

Sowing Seeds and watching God produce a harvest is amazing!  What seeds are you sowing?

For those of you not sure of the structure of our partnership let me explain a bit:

Beautiful Response is a 501c3 organization that is committed to coming alongside indigenous missions and organizations where God is already at work through amazing men and women working within their communities.

Currently we have partners in Uganda...Raising Up Hope Uganda (RUHU) Caleb and Sonja Schut are the point people.
And in Haiti...Help The Youth (HTY)  Al and Holly Schut are the point people.

Our partners have the leadership, gifts and abilities, the knowledge of the situations and needs in their countries, and the faith they need to be used by God to bring change and hope.

We have been blessed and humbled to be called to come along side them to provide the financial resources and to be their friends, brothers and sisters, in this work.

For more information or to give online go to  Indicate if your gift is for Uganda or Haiti.  We also ask for your prayers for our friends and partners and for us, as we seek to do our part in this kingdom work.

UPCOMING TRIPS:  July 25-29 Young adult and family trip.
                                    November 14-18
                                    February 20-24

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dreaming and Playing with God

Today I had lunch with my friend Marcia. Marcia is a character.  Marcia is 75.  Marcia is feisty.  On her bucket list is getting arrested for a worthy cause. Marcia works for justice for the homeless, the disadvantaged, the lonely.  She invites to her table those who will never be able to invite her to their home.  I got to experience one of those meals recently, and it was quite the experience!  Marcia is beloved.

Marcia had a dream.  She dreamed that she was walking on the beach, though it wasn't beach weather.  There were almost no other people on the beach, although she did see one man up ahead walking toward her.  She was frightened of him, but didn't have anywhere to go to get away.  As he got closer she realized it was Jesus and he looked sad.  With tears in his eyes he said, "Marcia, you don't play with me anymore."

Marcia thought about all the good and important things happening in her life. She is a busy woman. She is also a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer.  She is hoping she will live another 5 years.  That's her goal, reaching 80.  But she doesn't really know if she has 3 months left.  Thus, she is very aware of time and the things she wants and needs to get done, but she also realized in these most important times she is forgetting to have fun with God.

So she has made a decision to spend more time in the woods....with God, knitting and crocheting with friends...and God, and doing those things that make her laugh and bring her and God joy.  And she is trying to have fewer bad days when she is prone to saying bad words.  Marcia is very real.

I'm wondering how I best play with God.  One way is bird-watching.  I may have to buy some new binoculars.  I seem to have lost mine.

I'm wondering how you play with God.  How do you enjoy the presence of Jesus?  I'm wondering how you would respond if Jesus came to you and asked why you weren't spending more time having fun with him.

Are you aware of the Westminster shorter catechism question, "What is man's greatest purpose?"  "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."  (Man's, as in humankind.)

No matter how many our days may be, Lord, help us to bring you glory and have fun with you forever!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Haba...what? Habakkuk

Today I read the Book of Habakkuk. What a sobering, scary, yet reassurring word. God is in control, people! I realize this is true in the world wide sense and on a personal scale. God is in control. God is not blind to the state of affairs in our country. God is not deaf to our prayers. God has not absenced himself from us.

At the same time we need to recognize that we can't play games with God. God cannot be conned into doing our will or being on “our side.”

It seems abundantly clear in Scripture that:
1.  Our confidence needs to be, not in men, or might, or money, but in the Lord our God.  Psalm 20:7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  If you google this verse and then read all the corresponding verses it is a culture shock.  We have become very accustomed to the ways of this world.

2.  God cares about justice and caring for the poor, the stranger within our gates, the sick, the children, the vulnerable.  Zechariah 7:10  "Thus has the LORD of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; 10and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.' 11"But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.…
( does a god job of referencing Scriptures with the same theme.)

3.  We better not take God's name in vain, which I fear is being done by so many of us lately...claiming the name of Christian but refusing to follow Jesus. Refusing to love God above all and our neighbors/and enemies as ourselves. (Ok, I know that is tough, but how do we pray for those we consider our enemies?) Exodus 20:7

Jesus, help us to follow you! Help us to live so as to bring glory to your name. Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable unto you! You are Lord, you are king, you are in control, whether I see it or not.

Habakkuk 3:3 Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hearts and Hope

Over and over again people will ask, “I'm not sure what I would do in Haiti. Wouldn't it be a better use of that money to just send it down?”  In general the answer is “No.” Our goal is that you would fall in love with Haiti's youth and our partners. Our goal is that you would be able to pray for our board and one or two of the students by will see their faces and know their stories. Our goal is that you will laugh and play with your new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they are little orphans from the mission where we stay, or our students and friends in Neply.  We understand not everyone can come down, but if you can...COME!

Arnold, one of our board members told those who joined us on this last trip, “Thank you for coming to Haiti to see how we live. Together we can start making a difference. The children are not the same as they were before we started Help The Youth. They are participating in church more. Their friendships are better. They understand people better. I see how imporant it is. Sometimes we don't know what we are doing because we don't see the changes inside the heart. I can see there is a great difference!”

Rodrique said, “I don't have a job now, but I know that I have been prepared and have an education, so I will have a job. Our students have that same hope. They know that they are being prepared and educated so they will be ready for what God wants for them.”

We have been told by several people, “If people are hopeless they will turn into bad people out of desperation...thieves, drug dealers, etc. But our students have hope. They know God has made it possible for them to go to school.”

TiCarme said, “The students feel like a president's child. They don't have to worry that they will be sent home from school because there is no money for school.” 

There is no way to understand the power of that statement without understanding the educational system in Haiti. There is no free education. If 2/3rds of the way through the year you run out of money the student has to do the whole year over again. (The importance of us being in this for the long haul really struck me when she said this.)

We can tell the difference in the students by looking in their faces, by watching them tease each other, by watching them serve on a mission trip to a neighboring village. This really is all about changing hearts...mine, yours, our partners, our students.  We know God doesn't just work through Haiti, so I'm wondering, "What is God doing in your heart lately?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Overcoming Overflowers

Do you ever play the game with your children or grandchildren that starts out, “I'm thinking of an animal.” Then they proceed to ask questions and make guesses about what you are thinking about? With our kids we sometimes played, “I'm thinking of a person.” We often narrowed the field by figuring out where we were living when we knew this person.

I invite you to play this version of the game with me. “I'm thinking of a person who is overflowing with hope.” This person demonstrates what it means to be filled with joy and peace. This person is a joy to be with. This person is authentic. This person hasn't always had an easy life. This person doesn't deny the struggles in her life. This person loves the freedon Christ came to give. This person knows Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. This person loves nature. This person loves children, though she doesn't have any of her own yet. When you are with this person you are likely to get a shower of hope and joy splashed upon you. When you are with this person you will be challenged.

Want to guess? I would love it if you respond on my facebook post.

Recently I was reading Romans 15 and verse 13 grabbed me. May the God of hope fill YOU with all joy and peace as YOU trust in him, so that YOU may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I began to think of people who were “overflowers” in my life. I realized that many of the overflowers had overcome really difficult things in their hadn't been an easy life. Overcomers became overflowers when they recognized that their strength, wisdom, and courage came from God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I've also walked with enough “overcomers turned overflowers” to know that the battle isn't a one time thing. Once you have learned the lessons of trusting in Jesus in all situations you still continue to encounter tough situations. But under the tears and frustration there is a reservoir of strength, peace and joy that carries you through. Jesus carries you through. And when you keep your eyes on the One who will never leave you or forsake you there is always hope.

Send me your guesses and also send me examples of “overflowers” in your life. I could have chosen so many of you as my guessing name. You have blessed me and I have enjoyed the splashes of joy and peace from being in your presence.

Let's go splash some people out there who need to know there is hope to be had, joy to be experienced, peace to be claimed, by allowing Jesus to infuse us with his Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fun-Weird Follower of Christ

Recently I needed to submit a short bio for a church bulletin. Annika, my 8 year old granddaughter was with me as I sat down to type it up. I decided to seek her perspective on who I am, so I asked her how she would describe me to this church.

Her response was enlightening and so much better than anything I would have come up with. Thus the conclusion of my bio read, “According to my 8 year old grand-daughter I am fun-weird, a good talker and a good actor.” Actually the weird part didn't surprise me. I often tell them it is a great thing to be a little weird. You wouldn't want to be so boring as to be described as, “normal.”

I don't come from a culture that necessarily values weirdness, so I have had to practice it a bit, but I find it delightfully fun to be set free from “fitting in” or being “normal.” I remember my introduction to valuing foolishness. It came as we were counselors at Camp Manitoqua back in the early 70's. (Yikes!) Rev. Harold Korver was the camp director at the time and would often encourage us as staff to go out and be “fools for Christ.” So I put on a robe of foolishness and saught to live into this freedom that Jesus gives us: go against the grain of culture, push the edges of acceptable behavior in a Christlike way. Jesus did it all the time. It got him killed. Not everybody will know what to do with us either.

One of my new favorite authors is Mark Batterson (remember? The Circle Maker). I was excited when I got to the chapter, The Importance of Looking Foolish, in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Here he quotes I Corinthians 1:27, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.

He also sights a study that found, “98% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 score in the genius category for divergent thinking (thinking outside the lines). Between ages 8-10 the number drops to 32%. By the time kids are teenagers, it drops down to 10 percent. And only 2 percent of those over 25 scored in the genius category for divergent thinking. According to John Putzier the solution to this intellectual conformity and creative atrophy is “Tapping your natural weirdness.” Love it!!

I think it is important for us to remember that it was thinking outside the religious lines that got Jesus into trouble, and just might get us there too.  It helps me to hang out with the most joyous, free-spirited, loving, Christ-followers I can find.

I know that if I am true to our calling of bringing light and life into our lost and broken world I need to tap into that freedom and natural weirdness that Jesus brings me. I am more fun to be around if I'm not so worried about myself or what people think of me. I can focus on making others feel comfortable and welcome when I am comfortable with who God has made me. I am able to do more good when I don't worry about doing something wrong.

And do you know what? Not everybody is going to like me or understand me...and that is ok.