April 29, 2011

Where is Your Anguish?

I’m a slow writer. Which makes me a less frequent writer. How I envy someone who can spend 20 minutes at the keyboard, write something coherent and get on with his or her day. I write for 20 minutes…30...an hour and more. Sometimes by the time I finish, I forget where my words were heading. Today I’m challenging myself to write this in one hour or less so I apologize in advance for lack of clarity or brevity.

I’ve been back from Haiti for almost two months—55 days to be exact. And still my heart aches to go back and do something. To do lots of somethings that will make a difference. Why did God connect my heart to Haiti when I’m here and they’re there, and I feel so helpless?

Yesterday David Wilkerson died. He was a pastor, one of the greats, with an incredible ministry that impacted the world. I didn’t know much about him until yesterday, but news of his passing came to me in several ways so I checked him out.

Decades ago he developed a heart for gang and drug addicts and went on the streets to minister to them. This led to him to start Teen Challenge, an evangelical Christian recovery program and a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers. There's a Teen Challenge here in PA that our prison ministry helps get guys into. I've heard great things about how it really changes men's lives and gives them hope for a fresh start.

Last night, Bob, the head of the prison ministry sent us all a link to one of David Wilkerson’s messages, "A Call to Anguish." "You must listen!" He implored. And so I did. I urge you to spend ten minutes today and listen to this, too.

Listening to Pastor Wilkerson's passionate, emotional and fiery words I felt him grab my shoulders and shake me to pay attention. Conviction stirred deep in my center. What am in anguish for, for the Lord? Where do I look and my heart break? I have plenty of projects, but do I have passions?

His were life-changing words. When the message ended, I sat at my computer, unable to move on, immobilized by his words. Letting them find a place. Praying they’d light/re-ignite/guide a fire within me. I grabbed my journal and pen and wrote my response. Let my thoughts pour out.

Lord...Where is my anguish? Where does my heart break? Where is my passion?

In Haiti.

On a daily basis I don’t know what to do with that answer. Life creeps in and takes over. My day to day is filled with kids and carpools. Work and house responsibilities. Friends and family. It’s all good and I feel blessed. But my soul stirs for Haiti. How do I respond?

I have a few thoughts and ideas, but I keep hoping that God will reveal the "big thing." It would make it all much easier, wouldn't it? Or, perhaps in doing the little things, the big will into focus?

I love my life, but deep down I believe it's not all God wants of me. My day to day is so much more about me and what needs to get done than it is about Him. The American Dream is good, but is it really God's good and perfect plan for my life...or for yours. 

Where is your anguish? Where does your heart break for God's people? Where is your passion?
And what are you doing about it?

April 26, 2011

good news or Good News?

He is risen! 

I can’t believe how many Easters I celebrated without understanding what those words really mean. And I can’t believe how wonderful Easter is now that I do.

He is risen—and all of history is forever changed. And by my knowing, I am forever changed.

Attending Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services last week, and walking through the events of Jesus’ final week—the majesty, solemnity, betrayal, final words and tragedy—made the glory of the resurrection all the more impactful.

Even though the story is a familiar one, the magnificence of its retelling grows brighter each year. Every year I gain a greater understanding of and a deepening awe for Jesus’ sacrifice. The Easter story isn’t just a tale to be passed down through generations. It is truth revealed.

In one dramatic act, planned from the beginning of time, Jesus conquered death, overcame sin and defeated Satan. The entire course of history changed. The consequence of this is so great I think it will take a lifetime and then some to fully comprehend God’s love shown through Jesus…for me…and for you.

He is risen! And this is Good News indeed!

This year Easter fell in the midst of other good news. Good news that’s been reported on for weeks. Good news that’s so monumental that journalist have dedicated hundreds of hours to reporting every detail and nuance of the story. Reporters are currently on location jockeying for prime position, trying to discover, interview, analyze and uncover even more nuggets of insight. By the end of the week all eyes will be focused on the spectacle.

What is this event of such life-changing significance? The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton of course.

I love weddings and am a big fan of marriage, but am I the only woman who is befuddled by the frenzy over their pending nuptials? I don’t get it. Why are we so smitten with a story that involves people we don’t personally know, in a country that’s not our own and whose marriage won’t affect our lives one single bit?! Doesn’t all the hoopla seem a wee bit overblown?

Why all the fuss? Is it our enduring hope for a happy ending? For fairy tales come to life? For the grandeur of kings and queens.

I wonder if in consuming the frivolity, are we snacking on that which lasts for a moment and overlooking the feast that lasts forever?

A royal wedding is good news, but Jesus is the Good News. In Him, we don’t have to envy royalty we become royalty—princes and princesses, heirs to the inheritance. We don’t have to wish for a happy ending, we are assured of one. We don’t have to dream of castles and kingdoms; the Kingdom of Heaven comes to us.

When we follow Jesus, Easter isn’t good news we celebrate once a year, it’s the Good News we live out every day. It's life changing, revolutionary, intimate and eternal.

Obviously the media and the masses won’t tell this story. We must proclaim, share, tell, teach and invite. Perhaps this is why Jesus’ final words to His disciples instructed them to do just this: “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

He is risen! And that changes everything. Share the story!

This song has run through my head all week and tells the story perfectly
Christ is Risen by Matt Maher

April 13, 2011


This is the third installment of my Haiti series. You can read the others here: Follow and Thirst. Bondye beni ou...God bless you.

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

My favorite part of the day is the mornings when my kids are off to school, my work-at-home husband is at a meeting, and it’s just me in the house with a solitary, quiet canvas on which to write, organize and create.
This is where I am right now and it’s blissful.
I cherish quiet and time to myself, and retreat from chaos. In fact, when I went on my first mission trip one of my biggest fears was the lack of alone time we’d have. I feared that being so tightly scheduled and closely situated with others 24/7 would make me cranky. To my surprise, I discovered the complete opposite to be true. I loved living in a “community” and instead of my spirit withering, it flourished.
It’s been a little over a month since I’ve returned from Haiti and while my time at home has been good, nothing has come close to matching the sense of belonging and togetherness I experienced in Haiti. My stomach still flutters in excitement when I think about it.
And right now, despite my contentment with the present, if I could bring my family with me I’d give anything to be back in Haiti living every minute of every day, shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters. Having early morning devotions on the roof, singing on the bus, digging on the work site, hiking, eating, laughing, worshipping and just hanging out.
How is it possible that in only ten days we formed such strong connections with one another, and with the people and place we came to serve?
Obviously it was a gift from God.  
But there were specific things about the experience that made it special.
  • We shared a common purpose.
  • No on put his or her desires before anyone else’s.
  • Everyone was willing to do whatever was asked.
  • We shared whatever we had with one another as needed: snacks, medicines, money, clothes, phones, a shoulder or helping hand…anything.
  • We laughed a lot.
  • We freely added to our group and our ”family” grew.
  • We covered the experience in prayer and worship.
This reminds me of another group of people through whom great things happened—the believers in the early church.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:32-34, emphasis mine)
I’m not sure if God intended this type of living for a time or for forever, but having seen this passage come to life in Haiti and on past mission trips, there is something deeply right about it.
The heart of the gospel is communion and community. We were created to be in relationship with God and in relationship with one another--and to use those relationships to bring glory to our Creator.  
In Haiti being of “one heart and mind,” “sharing everything we had” and living with Godly purpose was easy. Our time was set aside, our needs provided for and our days scheduled. But now that I’m home, regaining even a fraction of this way of living is incredibly difficult.
Schedules, responsibilities, me-time and the realities of everyday life have quickly taken over. I find I go from day to day just trying to keep all the balls in the air. I have a very good life and much of what I do is “important.” Yet, I can’t help but wonder if somewhere along the way of living this American life—of gathering, maintaining and planning for the future—that I’ve (we’ve) taken a seriously wrong turn.
Self-sufficiency leads to isolation. Materialism sucks up time and resources. Our plans overshadow God’s plans. Inter-dependence, generosity, unity and submission are NOT our natural inclinations. But they weren’t for the early believers either and somehow they chose differently.
And look how the Spirit moved through them.  
Experiencing community on these mission trips has opened my eyes to a new way of living. I have more questions than answers, but of this I am certain—rich or poor, man or woman, introvert or extrovert—we are indeed better together.
To my Haiti family--Cindy, Kathy, Helen, Sue, Bob, Jim, Christine, Jane, Regina, Annie, Marcus, Paul, Gregg, Kate Lynn, Erica, Dan, John, Valentin, Jon, Andrea, Jeff, Jean, Dessaline, Henery, Roodson, Jude, Francois, Lucsom, Lovely, Eben, Wesley, Jonas, Beniel, Augusto, Ezekiel and the many others whose names I’ve left out—thank you for sharing the journey with me and for showing me the better way. 

April 8, 2011

Laptops, Frustration and a Fish Story

I finally joined the "cool" crowd and purchased a laptop--my first ever. I've taken to carrying it with me everywhere...around the house...to meetings...I've even spent a couple afternoons working at Starbucks. I feel so relevant! (Who cares that I'm years behind.) My joy has quickly turned to frustration as the laptop has developed a nasty habit of crashing and freezing up several times a day. I finally called tech support and they discovered that a fatal flaw exists in the OS. Good news for the computer, but bad news for me. Since the laptop will be reformatted all the hours (days) I spent setting up the computer have been wasted and need to be done all over again! I love technology when it works, but when it doesn't...@*%$&^!@#*%$!

I'm trying to get "them" (aka, Dell) to send a tech to come to my house and take care of it all. I pushed the issue with the tech person and tossed around words like "loyal customer," "unacceptable" and the grand daddy of customer service complaints: "I want to escalate." I received sympathy, but the reply was, "We can't send someone. You can call and they'll walk you through the steps." 

*Argh!* I KNOW the steps, I just don't want to DO them again! Am I being unreasonable?

Sorry. Instead of a fresh, inspiring post this week you get a mini-rant. I guess I'll try for two entries next week.

Today I have this devotion featured at Internet Cafe Devotions. Grab a cup of coffee and join me over there. Hope to see you at the Cafe!

A Fish Story

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

Outside my kitchen is a small fish pond. Years ago we turned an overlooked corner into a cozy landscaped nook. Now my family enjoys peeking out the windows to watch the fish and listening to the trickling of the fountain. It’s surprising how much joy this spot brings us.

But once in a while, the pond needs some TLC. One summer afternoon, the pond was overgrown with algae and I couldn’t see the fish in the murky water. Clearly, they needed help. I decided it was time for an extreme pond makeover.

I emptied the pond, scrubbed the gunk off the walls and filter, added some decorative features and filled the pond with fresh, clear water. Patting myself on my back for a job well done, I re-introduced the fish to their sparkling new home.

The next day, I went back to admire my makeover. But instead of finding the fish swimming happily, I found them floating on the surface. [Read more...]

April 1, 2011


This is the second entry on my series on Haiti. Bondye beni ou...God bless you.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
For much of the year Haiti is a dry, dusty place. The sun bakes the hard packed earth and a breeze blows clouds of dust across open spaces. Even though it has many lakes and is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, Haiti feels more like a desert than a tropical island.  

At least it did when I was there.

On our worksite, which was a large open plot of land our primary task was to dig foundation trenches for the vocational school. We used pick axes to break up the rock solid earth and shoveled out the loose dirt. With each tossed shovelful of dirt, the breeze carried a cloud of dust, covering all in its path. We quickly learned to stand upwind, but still we ended each day covered in dirt and dust. I flossed my teeth one night and even found dust between my teeth!

Parched land leads to parched people.  

As our team spent entire days working in the hot sun, our mantra to one another became, “Take a break and get a drink.” How we savored those breaks to fill up our water bottles for much needed refreshment.

But for Haitians water isn’t always a blessing. The source of life is often a source of disease and even death as water often carries bacteria, parasites—and recently cholera. Few have easy access to clean water.

Less than one-quarter of urban Haitians have tap water in their homes. Folks in rural communities gather rain water in cisterns or travel miles to fetch (often polluted) water. A family might have to make one large bucket of water cover all their needs—cooking, drinking and washing--for days.

I have no experience with this kind of scarcity.

At one worship service we attended, members of the church brought in a cooler and gave each of us Americans a cold bottle of water to drink. We thankfully, but reluctantly accepted their gift of love and sacrifice knowing that our hosts needed that water far more than we did.

A few children sat on the laps of our team members during the service and watched the water distribution with great interest. After a sip or two for themselves, most from our team shared their water with the kids. I watched as one little girl tipped the bottle to her lips and emptied its contents with one long, enthusiastic gulp.

The people of Haiti are indeed thirsty. And not just for water.

Thankfully Jesus knows a thing or two about thirst because the folks we worshipped and worked with have parched spirits. As that little girl gulped from the water bottle, their spirits thirst for the Living Water that only Jesus provides. They worship with freedom, eagerness and enthusiasm. The overflow from their hearts poured onto us and quenched a thirst in each of us that we didn’t even realize we had.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
How remarkable that while our team went to Haiti to help meet physical needs, God allowed our spiritual needs to be satisfied far more profoundly.  

Building water purification facilities and digging wells are some of the greatest ways we can care for and love our brothers and sisters in impoverished countries, but offering them—and receiving for ourselves—the living water that Jesus offers is the most precious gift there is.
Is your spirit parched? Are you drinking from the well the world offers and feeling dissatisfied? Have you met Jesus at the well and discovered His living water? Does it overflow from your life onto others? 
We don't have to travel to poor countries to find people who are dying of thirst. Our mission field is outside our front door.
Lord, give me a thirst for You--To experience You. To know you. To love you. To worship you. Fill me to overflowing so that your life-giving water flows into the lives of others.

Haiti has been so severely deforested in the last few decades that rain runoff causes extreme erosion.
Taking a much-needed water break in the shade

A little girl going to fetch water. (She's not even wearing shoes.)
Receiving the Living Water at a powerful worship service
One of several pump wells in Camp Hope
Lake Sumatra, one of Haiti's largest lakes, is said to have cholera in it.