What the Haiti Bloggers Taught Me

 
Tent City, a partial view….photo by telegraph.co.uk

There was a group of bloggers that went to Haiti not long ago. I guess you could say I went along with them. I found myself eagerly following their journey, swept up in their enthusiasm, fear, and trepidation about what they would see, hear and discover.

On Facebook and through each of their blogs, I packed with them, boarded planes with them and prayed with them. I was there, at least in spirit, while they waited in airports and when they touched ground there. I was wrapped up in it, but from a safe distance.

I read the first reports, saw the pictures come in one after another. Each sharing their own personal journey…..in their own words. And there was power in their words, because of what they saw.

Like drumbeats in a native village, the stories came back from each writer, along with the stunning pictures that went where words could not. And it wasn’t just the stories, it was the real people attached to them. People whose faces would be forever imprinted on the hearts of each writer.

I myself slept in my own comfortable bed as they told about how a Haitian Pastor slept on the ground outside by the orphan children that he was protecting, because as Duane Scott said in his post today, “A shepherd never leaves his flock.”

I was in prayer with them when they landed and came back to this land that must have felt a little bit foreign even after being in Haiti a few days. This land where normal means, buying the next model of IPhone simply because you must have the latest and newest version, not because there is anything wrong with your phone.

What they saw changed them from the inside out. Not only that, it has changed me too. I learned some things from them:

That a handful of committed people can make a big difference……and you don’t have to go to another country to be impacted and feel the change yourself, (but it helps).

That God doesn’t want my leftover gifts. He wants my heart.

That I am thinking harder and longer before I purchase something.

That even though I can wake up depressed like I did this morning? Over there in that country little children and adults are living in conditions no one should ever live in, and they are still smiling.

Singing, rejoicing……but they are also

Fainting in classrooms for lack of food.

Being kidnapped and raped.

Living with fear night and day and never ever feeling safe……

And God is watching how we respond, how I respond.

Each of us can make a difference. If only half of us went without one Starbucks Latte per day, we could build houses in Haiti.

If God moves you to do so, you can sign up for a project or make a one time donation right here, or find out more by clicking my “Help One Now Button.”

If God doesn’t lead you to give, then pray for those courageous souls doing God’s work over there. Your prayers make a difference!

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”  James 5:16, The Message.

Prayer for the Haiti Bloggers

“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room,I was shivering and you gave me clothes,I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” Jesus
 
 
As I eagerly read the posts coming in from the Haiti bloggers, I read their words and it felt like they were my words too, even though I am worlds away. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be there. Last night I looked up at the stars, the same ones they were looking at  and I wondered what they were doing, what they were seeing and feeling.
 
I know I would never be the same.
 
As I unwrap His promises today I am assured of one thing, if we call ourselves born again believers, we don’t have the luxury of not doing anything. Fear is one of the things that holds me back. I send my money to World Vision every month, happy to at least be doing something. I bring my bag of used clothes to the Hope Closet at church and I feel a nod from God. A small, warm quickening in my Spirit. And yet…….
 
If I were there? I know that all the words I thought I would have would be sucked right up inside me.
 
I pray for these who are there, seeing, feeling, touching…..being God’s own hands and feet. It is the next best thing to being there.
 
I lift my small offering today.
 
Please join me.
 
Photo courtesy of Facebook/World Vision

Of perfect storms and sparrows

Since I started in this new area at work, I have unvolunteered myself for a couple of things I really had no business volunteering for in the first place. I know me right now. Several things in my life right now are stressing me out big time. When I started counting them all I realized it would be even more amazing if I weren’t stressed.

Today started off strange right off the get-go. The person I left at my station last night had transformed herself into a cactus. She focused her prickly laser-like vehemence on me as soon as I came in. It seems I left one thing undone which she proceeded to turn into her own personal very big deal. She left a nasty gram in bold print on my computer, detailing everything that happened as a result of my little mistake. The mistake by the way, that could have easily been corrected in about 5 minutes if she had chosen to respond in a different way.

I felt bad for her co-worker, who is a very nice lady.  She was rolling her eyes behind “the talking cactus.” Then later, I was scolded for not showing up to lead stretches yesterday afternoon. That was my fault, it was my turn. Not only that, I was told that my stretch leading was not adequate. I needed to hold them for 20 seconds each and include more of a variety. So I marched over and took myself off that list too.

Sometimes we disappoint people, ourselves, God. It can’t be helped. I have learned some things through this, though. That if you are stressed to begin with, don’t raise your hand up in the air and volunteer for more.

Sometimes you have to take care of you.

Sometimes you just have to “check out”

After the stretching incident I went outside for a few minutes to regroup and play my “Words with friends.” It helped.While I was out there, I studied a little brown sparrow on the wall. I meditated on that little guy.

I noticed all the variant shades of brown. There must have been 20 that I could see. He was really a work of art. Then I remember what Jesus said about sparrows…..how they are valued by the Father. Noticed, counted. And how not one of them falls to the ground without Him knowing.

And He values you and me even more, much more, the Bible says.

I breathe deep. I start over. And now I will say a prayer for the counterpart that will come in tonight. I will be kind. Because I know there must be a reason why she acts as she does.

I also know that despite all the conditions in my life right now that are threatening to create that Perfect Storm? I have resources, I have people in my life who help me, support me, love me. And some have none of those things.

And writing about it really, really helps.

And most of all? I know the One who specializes in calming stormy seas.

Asking the big questions

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17
 
I slept late because I took a Walmart sleep aid. I missed prayer this morning……and running. That threw me all off.

Then I was messing around with the template and header on my blog yesterday and messed it up. So now it is beautifully off centered…..and the lettering is also not centered. Bless Dusty Rayburn for sending me the code. I know what he sent was right because he is a very smart guy, and a techie. But I put the code in and nothing changed.

And I decided that was okay because my life is very much like my crooked blog header right now. A beautiful picture  but gloriously off center. Not perfect. So I decided to leave it like that as a reminder.

“How did you love today?”

At the close of each day it’s what I ask myself. It seems more often than not there is a big fat red “F” on the report card in my heart. Mentally I check off everything I did wrong. I see fail after fail. Glaring at me from inside their smug little boxes.

We need to ask ourselves the hard questions as Christians. That was what came out of the church service on Sunday morning and ever since, I have wondered. Have I fit Jesus into a comfortable niche in my life?  Am I a “friend” or “follower” like on Facebook or Twitter, or am I a Disciple?

Disciple has definite connotations.

I felt the weight of it all as I stepped out the door to finally go running. I needed it to clear my head, and heart. And as I ran, something happened. I felt it lift. As I heard the words to East and West, I felt the warm oil of His grace from the top of my head all the way down to my toes.

It was like the oil I was anointed with once for sickness. And now I was feeling the healing of His Grace all over again.

Grace that is always greater than all my sin.

And where grace enters in, He always brings His love with it.

Oh God, this is it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for the assurance I am still and always Your child.

Only in Jesus can I be that picture of perfection. God sees my heart. The truth is, there is a lot I will get wrong today too, but there are some things I will get right.

I will get up and try again tomorrow with Jesus. And I thought another thing too this morning. That like Alzheimer’s? Once we confess to God, he not only forgives, He forgets all about it.

He has given me a living, breathing example of that right in my own home.

I guess you could say that God has a form of Alzheimer’s too when it comes to our sin.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
 

Telling the story

The most authentic story is the one we are living out right now.
I felt like a kid on the playground who got picked for a game. You remember that feeling, the lineup, the choosing sides? If you are like me, you hated it. I was always short and not very competitive so I never got picked first. Michelle Fromm always got picked first, and you always wanted to be the one she picked first. I was always somewhere in the middle, and that was fine with me, as long as I wasn’t dead last.  
Today, over at Bibledude.net Duane Scott is launching something very special.
I was invited to take part in this wonderful opportunity to share some of my stories, and though I’m still not sure why, it is a great honor. I think maybe God had something to do with it. The reason this means so much is because I believe in it so strongly. We all have a story and no one story is more important than any other, especially to God.
God has written our story on His heart, and more than anything, He wants us to share His story with each other, and with the world. After all, His story is the one that matters most. Like the old hymn says:
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.” 
Well, that is part of it anyway. This song, written by Frances J. Crosby, tells the redemption story. The most important story that will ever be told. And, your story, our stories, matter.
So pull up a chair, sit down beside us on the bench and we will share a story together. Who knows what we may learn from each other…..
Many thanks Duane, again!

Lattes in Church

It’s a curious phenomenon. Ever since bigger churches have started adding bookstores and coffee stands, I have noticed more and more people carrying their lattes into church. It kinda bugs me. Now, anybody that knows me, knows I have a passion for coffee and books. Nobody loves them more than I do, I just think there is a time and place for everything. Maybe it’s the Baptist in me. I think they should be able to put their latte down for an hour or so, at least in church.

Here in the desert, it is very hot and very dry, so I totally understand a bottled water in church. After all, the Pastor may have need of it. He might just have a coughing fit right in the middle of the sermon, or have a bad case of cotton mouth. You could be the hero, offering your water. But coffee is a leisurely drink. Something to have in the fellowship hall (remember those?) after church, with a bad store bought cookie or donut.

To be honest, I even have mixed feelings about having those places on the church premises, although I frequent them myself. It is confusing. I know the money goes to good causes, but even so, my legalistic side imagines Jesus coming in with a whip and tipping over the coffee cart and scattering books everywhere.

I know, I am mixed up.

That’s why I blog, to share my mixed up feelings with my fellow believers, and anyone else who will listen. I have some hangups, I know. I just feel a certain decorum and reverence should accompany church attendance, and yet I love it when our Pastor uses YouTube videos to illustrate a sermon point. And I love that he uses an iPad.

I definitely believe in laughter and humor at church. My Grandmother on the other hand, didn’t think laughter and church belonged in the same sentence. She also didn’t think there should ever be any guitars or drums involved at any time during worship and certainly no clapping or raised hands. She didn’t think church was the place to show any joy or expression of any kind.

She believed in paying attention……well, she paid attention mainly to what everyone else was doing. She sighed loudly in church and embarrassed us all. Bless her heart.

She also picked the quietest time to unwrap her Reed’s peppermint candy and offer one to everyone else in the pew. It also bothered her that after Amy got her divorce, she was still allowed to be the church organist. I can still hear her to this day……”She should be in the back of the church….”

Well, now you can understand why I have all these conflicting feelings about how church should be and how you should behave in it. Just last Sunday, I saw two of the shortest skirts I have ever seen, at church. I want to ask them, “Do you know where you are?”

And I am still surprised when I see tattoos in church, though I shouldn’t be. I do, however believe in drums, and guitars and raising my hands and laughing in church.

After all, if being saved from hell and living forever with Jesus isn’t a reason to rejoice, I don’t know what is.

Maybe I need to sit in the back of the church with Amy the organist.

The heart of a writer

When can you call yourself a writer?

When you simply have to write.
There was a time not so long ago when I didn’t feel I was worthy to be called one, not a real one anyway.
fake, imposter, wannabe, dreamer….that was what I called myself.
But that wasn’t right.
I felt others deserved the title because of the beauty of their words and the wisdom with which they were written.
I read writing that made me ache from the longing of wanting to string words together that good.
But here’s the thing:
Even though the transformation from the heart to the page sometimes falls completely flat,
I still have to keep writing.
I still have to keep doing it.
Even if no one reads it.
Writing was the one thing in my life that I always started up again.
After so many other things that I had quit.
……..because I was simply compelled to do it.
The words were fighting to get out and I had no choice but to set them free.
Even if I wasn’t always happy with how I expressed it.
Even if I felt others did a much better job of it.
Even if I never got another comment.
Because God gave me permission.
And He takes pleasure in every word I write.
And because everytime I do it, I feel like I am the person He created me to be.
And because I simply have to.
 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17