December 31, 2011

Giving as a Way of Life







She lives life to the full. Everyone knows her as the chief administrator of Canaan. Sister Gladys gave our team the grand tour the first morning we were there. She walked us around to show us all—the clinics, the chapel, the future dining hall, the baby nursery and the school (where we got our first introduction to Canaan’s kids.) She didn’t say it directly but in her words, in her way, she welcomed us “home” to Canaan.

Under her authority, the team was released to fully embrace life in Haiti for the coming week.

My first impression of Sister Gladys was that of the consummate mother, her wings covering the community she leads with passion and devotion. And my impression was confirmed the more I watched her fulfill her purpose in this place. Her life speaks loudly---- lessons I need to learn.

Copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission
The first afternoon some of the older girls and the women on our team gathered in the dining hall to wrap gifts.

The wrappers held up paper squares-- scraps from the gift we had just wrapped--and called out to Gail, “What can you find that will fit in paper this size?”

Gail pulled toys from boxes piled near the door. Sifting through the jumble of offerings, she pulled stuffed animals, toy trucks, blocks and balls from the boxes. An hour or so into the wrapping party, we got word from Sister Gladys that she needed two hundred wrapped gifts. The gifts piled high on the counter. We hadn’t counted.

Copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission
We wrapped until the last paper rolls rolled down to nothing but cardboard tubes. We had no idea how many gifts were in the piles. We prayed for 200 and counted 217.

These gifts, collected by Canaan, were being to sent the fishing village of Petit-Goave, a town near the epicenter of the earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti on January 12, 2010.

A couple of days passed and the packages were bagged---  packed into the back of the truck. Sister Gladys’ passion for this mission heightened our desire to join her.  While the truck was being loaded for the long trip to Petit-Gaove, she pleaded with us to find more.

“We have a bag of clothes, nice ones, baby clothes, other sizes,” Jen offered.

“Put them in and look over there in the corner for books. Are there books in French?” (We were working in her office.)

We found a few books.

“Any crayons---- anything that you can find that will be a blessing?”

We handed a few more things out the door to be loaded into the truck. It was packed down.

And then I heard the heart behind Sister Gladys’ passion. It came straight from the mouth of Jesus. The words He spoke from the mountain:

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." (Luke 6:38)


Sister Gladys' conversational paraphrase of the famous verse from the Bible wasn't much different from the Scripture quoted above. More importantly, she believes these words are true. She didn't speak them because she wanted gifts. She spoke them because she walks the way Jesus taught.

Canaan was giving because they live by the commands and the promises of God. This was not desperation, or manipulation, this was faith lived out in purity of heart.

Canaan would bless the children of Petit-Goave, and God would give back. It is His way. No one among those packing that truck that day knows this more than Sister Gladys.

God is the Giver of gifts. “Every good thing, every perfect thing” comes from his hand.

No gift is ever to be held. When we try to hold what God’s gives, we miss the greatest blessing of all. God gives so that we have the blessing of giving out of His abundance. He pours in and we pour out---an outpouring of joy.

Copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission
We circled to pray over the gifts and those who would receive them. 

I was humbled when Sister Gladys asked me to voice the prayer. I thanked God for the hope sent tucked in books with the toys, the story of Jesus given as a gift at Christmas, for safety and protection for the long journey down the coast and back. I thanked for His provision so that Canaan could be a blessing.

Caroline and Rosa Mae drove away. 

Sister Gladys had released the gifts to the Lord’s will.  Then she was on to other pressing things. A “mother” of seventy plus has a few things on her plate. She lives life to the full.

I glance over to backpacks piled in the corner. Soon we would have the blessing of giving---Christmas gifts in backpack wrappings sent from our church family for the children of Canaan. Bags that held tennis shoes and deodorant, coloring books and baby dolls----and the promise of Jesus “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” 





December 29, 2011

Canaan's Praise Warriors


copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission
I sat on the steps of the office, and as my friend, Cheryl described the moment, “I was basking in the glory!” Little boys surrounded me. My own sons have morphed into men. I had forgotten how much I loved hanging out with little guys with their questions and energy.


As the pastor walked by, he spoke to the boys in Creole. I noticed the sideways glances they cast toward one another as they stepped out to follow--- his hand beckoning, “Come.”

I assumed the pastor had chores for them. School was out; it was mid-afternoon.

Some of the team were working on a renovation project of a shed into a kitchen. Others had gone to market to gather a few more things we needed for the Christmas celebration we were preparing for the children and all who live at Canaan.

After a busy day, the team gathered for the evening meal. Pastor Henri came in and recounted his day. His voice strong, his hands moving as he let us in what he had been up to that afternoon.

He told our team that there had been what he described as a “small fire” near Canaan. He and the boys had gotten it under control. The weather dry and windy, wildfires are not uncommon where burning trash is a everyday occurrence.

copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission


The men on the team protested, “We didn’t know.” (The smell of smoke was very common while we were in Haiti.) “We could have stopped the work and come up the hill to help.”

I remembered the pastor summoning the boys, them falling in behind him earlier in the afternoon. I realized they had jumped from the steps to go fight the fire. With no alarm, his little band of first responders had taken off after their leader. I had been clueless.

Then the pastor told us something that gave us all a deeper understanding of this place-----their complete dependence upon God for everything.

“At Canaan, when there is a big fire, this is what we do. All of Canaan, children and adults, go up to fight the fire. The older children and the adults beat the fire down with branches while the little ones and the women who care for them stand near and sing praises to God as the fire is put out. In twenty years, no fire has ever overtaken Canaan.”

Today, it had been a small fire. God had provided with only minimal damage to an irrigation system further up the hill. All the while we had worked and played in oblivion just yards away.

The dining hall had become a classroom. The pastor wasn’t intentionally preaching a sermon. He was teaching us “on the way.” He was teaching us the way of living totally dependent upon God.

Bryan said it best, stunned by the revelation, “The last thing we plan to do when we face a crisis----especially a crisis that threatens devastation, is to figure in singing praises to God as part of the plan.”

We know what Bryan says is true.

Of all the lessons of Canaan, this may be the greatest lesson we learned during our short stay. Canaan lives in the Upside Down Kingdom---- the kind of kingdom living we are called to as well. 

Could we learn to turn life upside down---to approach life and its challenges God’s way?

What kind of faith is required to be sing praises when it seems that all could be destroyed?

This wasn't just a good idea. It was a God idea---that praise overcomes, wins victories in life's battles to the glory of God!
“Behold, God is my salvation, 
I will trust and not be afraid; 
For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, 
And He has become my salvation.”  (Is. 12:2)
At Canaan there is no despair that there will be no fire engine coming to the rescue. God is their Deliverer. He is their Salvation. There is a quiet and dignified way the expression of this truth is lived out among those who serve there. God is acknowledged with reverence and it is beautiful!


Dawn was breaking the morning we loaded our luggage into the bed of the truck to begin the first leg our journey home.

As we filled our stomachs with baked oatmeal covered with milk and sipped strong coffee, the pastor mentioned that there was a big fire up on the hill. He said it was a good distance away. It would be no problem for Canaan if the wind did not shift with warming of the day.

Some of us walked up the hill one last time. The fire blazed hot in the distance. It was still too dark to see what lay in its path.

The eleven found our places around the truck bed for the hour and half ride to the airport. I perched myself on a duffle bag. Some sat in child-size chairs; others stood. Our bodies braced with each jolt of the truck tires pounding over rocks down the road that would take us from Canaan.

As we left, I could not help but wonder, would the children and the praise singers be called up that day to fight the glowing enemy up on the hill?

Diesel fumes burned my sinuses; tears fell from my eyes. If Canaan had to fight, I so wanted to be in the battle alongside them!

Then it hit me. What was I thinking? That battle was the Lord’s! The LORD is their strength and their song. They didn’t need me. They had the praise warriors.

Canaan was spared from having to fight fire that day. We were thankful when we received the good news.

And we are humbled by the lessons of Canaan.

Lord, burn them on our hearts!


And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. (Zeph. 2:5)

December 27, 2011

Grace Sunday


Copyright: Cheryl Weaver used by permission
Of the five days I was on the ground in Haiti, one of those days was Sunday.

A gentle wind lifted from the sparkling blue sea and made its way up the hill to rustle the leaves shading Canaan. It blew through window screens to wake us gently. I climbed out from under my mosquito net and started getting ready for the day.

The kids were gone from the dining hall by the time we made it to breakfast. They were off to their dorms getting ready for Sunday school. Later, we would worship together in the chapel.

We ate and were filled. The community blessed us with more than enough. They live like Jesus.

The pastor gathered the team of twelve into the office for a Sunday school lesson. Light filtered through the windows so that we had no trouble seeing him or each other, but I had to turn my Bible just so to read the words in the dark room. No electricity comes on during the day when the sun provides the light.

Pastor Henri taught us to pray----and to do so boldly. He shared his own bold prayers and reminded us to pray God’s Word. He testified that God answers when we ask according to His will.

"Send God's Word back to Him. God’s Holy Words do not go out without accomplishing what they were sent forth to do. Will you believe God? Will you allow Him to prove Himself faithful? Even the angels are working at the bidding of the Almighty to accomplish His works among his people.”
Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!         (Ps. 103:20-21)
I think of all the children and I tremble. There must be an army of angels that carry out God’s Word at Canaan. I had thought the shadows were from the trees, but I remember the wings that cover holy places, the tabernacle, the Mercy Seat, the throne of God.

Canaan is in the Shadow of the Almighty. Angels always attend His Holy Presence. We are covered---all of us.


We walk down the stony path to the chapel. Worship had begun and my heart quickened to worship in this place, with these people. Most of the songs resonating off the cinder block walls and the tin roof were sung in Creole. The best I could give God in worship was my heart and my hands. 

My hands would cause no stumbling and I was thankful. I held them high. On my heart, He wrote a new song--- a song of praise from the depths, silent on the earth, a shout of praise in heavens.

My hands were lifted high; my heart laid low. The room filled with His Presence. The children sang in harmony to the rhythm of the tambourine.
I didn’t deserve this blessing. 

Pastor Henri brought his sermon to the children and to the staff of Canaan Christian Community. Others among the worshippers had walked up from town to go to church. A friend from Canada stopped in to join the flock. And sitting and standing in the back was our team, the twelve who came to Canaan for Christmas. 

Sister Gladys (Canaan's matriarch) translated from behind us. Her voice lifted toward the sloped metal roof that returned the message to eager listeners. The Holy Spirit’s covering was upon us. (And isn't He always...) I took a deep breath, savoring the moment. I slowly exhaled, and with the release, lifted a prayer of thanksgiving to the One who whose Presence was so very near.

The team was introduced to the church. Some shared from our hearts the testimony God had given us for these people. My mind drifted heavenward to the things eternal. Did this have to end?

The kids exited quickly, but some of us lingered in the chapel. An elderly lady shuffled toward me, her smile drew me close. I bent to receive a hug. Instead, I was blessed with a sweet and gentle kiss upon my cheek. I felt loved, connected through Christ to this stranger who passed my way.

photo: Sarah Grace Featherston
After lunch, Sister Gladys wondered if it might be too cold to take some of the children to the beach. We laughed. It had snowed at home the week before and the temperature seemed to us to be somewhere near perfect. We assured her we would be fine.

Soon after, we loaded two trucks with 18 children---ages 7 to12 and headed to the beach. Only two of them could not swim. Still, my mother instinct kicked in. I spent the first few minutes at the sea as "the anxious head counter.” Soon I relaxed, gave in to the joy and the peace that encircled us. The twelve were at the sea with children. 

The boys hung on the necks of the men and the girls grabbed hands to dance in a circle singing the baby song “patty cake.” In and out of the water, the kids chased after crabs and gathered seashells. And they shivered in our towels until the sun warmed them and they were off again in search of adventure.

Copyright: Cheryl Weaver 2011-- used by permission


photo: Sarah Grace Featherston
The sun was warm, the water cool----- and more than once I looked around at all the beauty (a thousand graces right in front of me) and I thought of heaven. These children are held by Love and I am too.

The children gathered almonds from a tree. I gathered grace---every piece I could gather. I savored sweetness all day long, the big and the little graces, as much as I could hold in hands wide open. I don’t deserve this and I my soul knows it well. But I won’t turn away from the God who gives good gifts to His children. I receive with joy.

No one came near drowning except for me. (I won't speak for my friends. I am sure they were right where I was.) It wasn't water that had overtaken me. God plunged me deep into the abundance of his amazing grace. I was baptized in Haiti with new eyes, an enlarged heart, and a quickened spirit. So much grace…

We crawled into the back of the trucks as the sun lowered toward the sea. Making our way back to Canaan, the kid’s countenances revealed a happy tired. Salt residue dried white on brown skin. I knew they have stories but I am grateful that they live at a place called Canaan. Their lives hold promise.



Copyright: Cheryl Weaver used by permission
God----He is faithful.

The wind in my face, I shift my focus to my right away from the sea to the mountains climbing from the earth toward the heavens. Out of the overflow of my filling, my heart lifted praises to God---- the God who so loved the world had ordained that I would live this day in this place. 

It was a day of wonders among the weak who are strong and the poor who are rich. I had come to Haiti to be the blessing and I was---- and they were. And God is making Himself known among the least who will be greatest!
I am humbled. 

And He is glorious!

This was the day I will forever call "Grace Sunday."

December 25, 2011

In the Sight of the Nations

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
Psalm 98:1-2

Haiti, December 18, 2011


The "With of God"
Ever-Present
His Glory fills the Whole Earth
And we are Glad!


























December 22, 2011

Out of Focus


The picture is out of focus. You can see the boy but the picture is fuzzy. This is my second day back home from my trip to Haiti and the picture expresses what I am feeling.

The boy in the picture has only been at Canaan for a couple of weeks. For the five days that we were in Haiti and when Joseph wasn’t in school, he was always somewhere near. Turn around and there he was ---- all three feet of mostly legs standing right beside me, or one of the others of our team.

The day the picture was made, he hung around the men who were working with power tools. Sometimes he and his little buddies took a swing with the hammer into the frame of the kitchen being pieced together, but mostly they practiced on scrap blocks of two by fours. Hammering with two hands, they worked the nail down with all their might.


At Canaan I was so focused. It wasn’t hard to identify how and who to love, how to praise and pray. My eyes could see. My heart was full of love, and grace, and peace.

Now I am home and I turn around and there is no one like Joseph longing for affection, needing to feel love from someone they don’t even know. I feel like I need a new prescription for my eyes because surely I don’t see what is right here in front of me.

My heart cries out like the blind man at the gate:
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.   (Luke 18:35-43 NIV)
Joseph unwrapped Christmas gifts on Monday night. Most likely, the only time in his life that he has received at the celebration of Christ’s birth. His face was one big grin. No one knows his story. He was dropped off at Canaan. God’s people clothe him, feed him, and most importantly, love him. I feel so blessed to have had the privilege love him for five days. So thankful he is safe in the place of promise called Canaan.

It’s going to come. I live by the eyes of faith. My eyes must focus on Jesus, the unseen God who is everywhere seen.

Miracles happen when you call out to Jesus in blindness.

“Lord, what do I want you to do for me, you ask?”

“I want to see!”

December 12, 2011

What am I made for?


The boys have a yellow dog. He started out a gangly puppy that loped around not quite able to control his body. They threw the rubber training duck and he stumbled over his giant paws to run for the dummy and bring it back. There was no training for retrieving. Running to fetch things was what he was made to do.

Working with him daily, they taught him things that didn’t come quite so naturally, like sitting and waiting to be released, and walking beside them at the curt command to heel.

Finally, with enough encouragement and reward, he learned to wait for minutes after his “prey” had flown over the rock wall and into weeds down below.

A few weeks ago, the boys took the yellow dog to the delta to give him his first shot at the real thing.

Just after the sun broke over the horizon, sitting in metal pit camouflaged with rice straw and reed mats, Drake got to be in his element, a working dog, retrieving from the cold waters of a rice field made duck pond.

I have to admit--- I wasn’t there. I am only relating what the boys recounted with enthusiasm about how quickly Drake found his place in the blind awaiting his cue. They talked with excitement telling me the details of the yellow dog taking off for the real thing splashing through cold water among the decoys and rice stubble.

“He’s a natural,” they said. 

I was happy for them, happy for the yellow dog.

Still a pup, there is little doubt that yellow dog knows what he was made for.

I have been asking God to reveal to me lately what I was made for. I am notoriously bad at self-evaluation and have a hard time understanding what my passions are.

I see others pour themselves into following sports teams, hunting the elusive prey, going to auctions, refinishing furniture, scrapbooking.

None of those passions are mine. Like the yellow dog getting the opportunity to retrieve, I wonder if putting myself in the right situations might reveal my passions---the things that make me come alive.

I began writing more intensely on this blog back in the summer.

I never dreamed I'd hold a computer in my lap. Long before that was even a dream, I wrote page after page in journals, processing life issues after my depression. I worked a lot of things out with God in those journals. Often, I wrote prayers.

Now I find myself  near the end of  the commitment I made to myself, and before God, to focus on writing blog posts to the end of the year.

When that commitment to write began this summer,  I was in a dry place. I heard only silence from God.

Silence or revelation, I didn't stop seeking Him. He was there. He never leaves his children.

To be honest, it was unnerving for a few days, but life has taught me that God sometimes speaks in silence. What was the silence about? There was a reason, because there is always a reason. So I waited. No new revelations came. There was the hope that putting things down in words would give me new perspective and give God the opportunity to write on my heart as I wrote here at this place--- my little corner of the blogging world.

Like the boys practicing with Drake in the backyard before taking him to the field, I have been practicing tapping away at the keyboard.

I described my writing to a friend as having been like practicing the piano. I don’t always play the same kind of song (and if you are a reader you know that.) But my commitment to write to the year's end keeps me coming back to tap way, expose parts of me regardless if the post works or not.

I have had no grand revelation from God that blogging is a calling in my life. I believe it is an opportunity he set before me. And I have learned many things from it (that's another post).

He has given me other opportunities as well.

One is to go to Haiti for a week to celebrate Christmas, to live with and to love the children at the Canaan Christian Community. I leave in two days to go to the “Promised Land.”

The other opportunity is two serve with a team in Ukraine in early February for two weeks. I will teach conversational English, make new friends, and be able to share Hope with them if the opportunity presents itself.

Though I may not feel like these opportunities are my passions, I am beginning to understand they are His passions. I am learning that when I risk being where I feel I unsuited, I am most blessed---- and so is God. God is taking me out to the field. I pray I will find that I am doing what I was made for.

Drake didn’t stand in the middle of the yard or the duck blind wondering if he might be a retriever. When he had the opportunity, he went for it. 

The blog will go silent for days to come---- maybe a couple of posts before years end. Then I will consider with the Lord if I should keep practicing on this keyboard or place my energies elsewhere.

Thank you for your prayers as I travel. I am anticipating new perspectives away from the safe place behind this screen. I give God my hands, my feet, my heart to serve those whom He loves and in turn serve my Savior.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.  (James 2:26) 
_______________________________________________
Counting graces with Ann:

praying for my friends’ fathers
praying miracles for a child sick with e-coli, kidneys failing
hearing a young boy pray for a miracle for his sick friend
hugging, a mother teary at the football team banquet
packing up my carry-on and my heart to take to Haiti

December 9, 2011

First Day of School

Writing five minutes on the writing prompt:  Color

There wasn't a kindergarten in the public school when I was five. I spent the biggest part of my childhood playing with my sister in and around my grandmother’s white clapboard house. The porch was painted grey and we used it for base for games and for playing house.

When I was six, the yellow school bus pulled up to her drive and my sister and I climbed the steps to sit on the green vinyl seats for our first ride to school. An older teenage girl from our community took us over to the red brick building with five first grade classrooms.

It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be. My sister and I were separated because they thought we needed to develop socially and educationally without depending upon one another.

The boy who sat in front of me had orange hair and black-rimmed glasses. We sat near the window and I looked longing out to the blue, blue sky. My bottom was firmly seated on the brown wooden chair and I dared not move because I had been warned about the consequences of getting in trouble at school. The bluff worked.

The first day went well until the boy with orange hair who obviously had not gotten the same warning as I had, colored his entire desktop black with a black jumbo crayon.

The teacher wasn’t happy and the speeches we heard earlier about school being fun flew out the window to the blue, blue sky.

I was over it. I think I cried but to no avail. I survived first grade, graduated high school with many who sat among me that day---but not with the boy with orange hair.

December 7, 2011

Prophesied


“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

 though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."

"Now may the God of peace
 who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, 
the great shepherd of the sheep,

by the blood of the eternal covenant, 

equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight,

through Jesus Christ,

to whom be glory forever and ever. 
Amen."

fulfilled. forgiven. forever.

(Isaiah 1:18; Hebrews 13:20-21)



December 6, 2011

When God Writes Your Love Story

He knew my wings were clipped. There was no way he understood me. I didn't even understand myself. Still, he loved me and scraped together enough money to get a simple diamond on a gold band. He asked me to be his bride. The boy who could have had his high school sweetheart instead chose me. 

Three years is a long engagement, but he was going to be buried beneath books and syllabi. He was off to medical school. I was entering my junior year in college. He didn’t want to ask me to go with him. He knew that I would be leaving behind a dream. So we waited.

He said he was in it for life. I believed him and I needed to believe him. My family had cracked and broken when I turned thirteen. In hindsight, the three-year engagement worked out a lot of kinks. The time that many thought would be the end of our relationship actually made it stronger.

One week after I turned the tassel and grabbed hold of that college degree, I walked down a church aisle and grabbed hold of his hand, gave him my heart---for life.

We jumped in the car and took a three-hour drive to mountains for our honeymoon. We had to come home early because we ran out of money.

“When twenty-five rolls around,” he told me, “we are going to celebrate. Our second honeymoon, we will do it up big time.”

This year we celebrated 25 years in Paris---the only ten days of our lives when we have spent both day and night together. Ten days without family or friends or kids. We hadn’t fully realized that was true until we were there together alone with no agenda pushing our lives.

We saw the sights, the art, the architecture. Small town folks, we actually enjoyed the challenge of learning to navigate the rail system. We paced ourselves, taking a couple of days out of the city to the Loire, once by car, once by train to see the beautiful places where history had left it’s mark.

On the day, the day twenty-five years later, we made no special plans. We slept in. He slipped down the street to get chocolate croissants for breakfast. We got out our map and plotted out a walking trip to a part of the city we had not seen. Heading out midday we found ourselves outside sitting at a cafĂ© near the Arc de Triomphe. Eating a leisurely lunch, we whiled away time watching people from all over the world visit the famous landmark. 

Afterwards, we strolled our way toward the Parc Monceau stopping along the way at a bakery to pick up tarts for a snack. White residue dusted our shoes as we walked the gravel paths in the park. Finally, we found a place in the shade and we plopped down on wooden slats, a bench painted thick with green paint. We settled in to spend the afternoon.

There were diversions all around---- brilliant flowerbeds, policeman on horses, children playing in sandboxes. A young man was scolded for taking his beautiful golden retriever up on the grass. The dog quarantined outside the iron fence, looked longingly at his master lounging on the grass. Everyone who passed reached down to pet him. The perfect weather brought all kinds of people to the park--- so many people to watch. I was set up for one of my favorite pastimes.

Despite all that activity around us, the conversation on bench drifted toward the day we were celebrating. We talked about the life we had shared---- the good times, the great times, the dark times of sickness and grief, of sin and its consequences. God had been gracious, forgiving, our faithful Companion and Provider through it all.

Our kids, mostly raised, had brought so much joy. No doubt they had been our greatest blessings and greatest challenges, the last one half way through high school. We looked to the future and imagined it changing quickly. In the blink of an eye there would be two at the dinner table.

Time brings many lessons and one we knew. It was glaringly obvious. Even though we were enjoying our adventure in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the real beauty in our lives resided an ocean and more away-----in the place that God has placed in the midst of eternity. The place God planned for us to live, to work, to love, and to give our lives so that we might fulfill his kingdom purposes, our little place in the great big world. Home.

No white gown, no flowers. A mother strolled by pushing her pram. The Parisians sunning in the grass could not have known that the two Americans sitting on the bench were committing their lives again before a Holy God. 

It wasn’t formal. There were no written vows of renewal. On a stunningly perfect spring day in Paris and before our great God, we recommitted our hearts to each other. We made a commitment to share the joys, the sorrows, and the unknown until death do us part.

As we moved from the bench to follow our route, we laughed about coming back to that very place in twenty-five years. Not likely, but still we dreamed.

Hand in hand, we walked past flower markets, and fruit stands, bicycles lined up waiting for renters. We window-shopped down a street with a gentle downhill slope leading us back toward our rented apartment. Tiny cars crammed the spaces along the streets. We didn’t see a single pick-up truck the whole ten days.

Away from the familiar, the perspective of our lives heightened. Away from the mundane of the everyday, we began to see with new eyes.

God had walked with us all of our lives. Taking this time to remember and to celebrate His blessings brought so much into focus. All we could do was thank Him----not just for a romantic trip to Paris, but for letting us see---really see what matters most, that which we carry in our hearts everyday.

Our lives tell a story, His story. We read it from the past and we carry it into the future. New chapters will be written, the letter of our lives. It is a forever story, one that never ends.

Today, I stood in line behind a silver-haired beauty at the eye doctor. She raised her wallet to show the receptionist the picture of the one she loved. "I lost him this year. I wanted you to know he won't be back." My eye caught the picture for just a moment. It was a portrait of her and the one she had "lost."

I couldn't imagine a time when I would tell the receptionist at the eye doctor that "he won't be back." But the encounter today caused me to stop to think of the park in Paris and the commitment we made there. Today life is before us but we don't know the story's outline. We don't know how the chapters to follow will play out. And the reality is, we never have.

We are so blessed that God wrote love into our story.

The girl with the clipped wings has learned to fly but not solo. Healed by God, I was blessed to be undergirded within the safe arms of a man of God who loved and committed himself to the one he chose.

We have said it to one another more than once these few past years as the hairs on our heads have grayed and the lines of time have etched across our faces, "I love you more now than I did way back when." It's true and it is beautiful.

Love never ends.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
   God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
(I John 4:16)

December 5, 2011

Take Heart

Photo of painting, "Song of the Lark"
Jules Breton
Are you facing a battle in life right now? Do you feel like you are losing?

Take heart.

Keep fighting the enemy. He may think he has the upper hand but you must believe that "all this" is working together to accomplish a good purpose from Eternity's perspective.

If He will give you his perspective in the here and now, I don't know? But I do know,you can trust the One who "holds all things together." 

At times like these it can seem that He is not "holding all" very well. Sometimes God allows a unraveling of sorts so that he can knit things back together in a new way. That is if you let him---and that is the big question isn't it? Will you see that life can be different?

Will you allow God to reshape your life on that Potter's wheel in the Hands of a Sovereign God?

Oh, I pray for a heart to want to do "whatever it takes!" (That can mean letting go of pride or the cloak of shame you wear so comfortably so you can remain the victim and don't have to take responsibility for your sin--- even when others may have started the cycle of pain by sinning against you).

God is with you. He is your strength. Everyday he is ready to start over if need be. Stay close to Him, trust Him through this. It is a path he knew you would travel, but determined that you would not travel alone. Immanuel, God with us, goes with you. The Light of the World will be your guide.

I pray for strength, courage, and wisdom for you. I pray the power of God's Word to fight off the enemy. I pray for protection and for healing.

Live one day at a time---the race set before you is a marathon, breathe. You may not do everything "right," but learn the way of repentance. Live today knowing that nothing can separate you from the love of God---nothing. You are loved. Follow God’s leading and be courageous.

Sometimes it takes courage to wait. Wait for something to grow out of nothing. Wait with anticipation. Look for redemption coming. He longs to be gracious to you. It says so right there in His Word. God breathed hope on to the pages of the Bible.

Will you let him write these truths upon your heart?

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Isaiah 30:18)
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3) 
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You. (Psalm 5:11)                        (NASB)

If you are reading and these words speak to you, I pray you will meditate on these great truths, let them sink deep into your soul. Let them take you to the heart of God who is singing over you a new song, a song that remembers that though this world is broken, all things hold together in Jesus Christ.

___________________________________________________________
Counting graces with Ann:
-Christmas gifts wrapped for Joel, our boy in Haiti
-butter softening for cookie dough
-rain slapping the steps, clapping to God for more
-dairy bar supper with friends
-another day to live, love, to know the grace of God
-prayer for hearts that are hurting, knowing there is hope








December 3, 2011

Holding Jesus


"And she brought forth her firstborn son, 
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, 
and laid him in a manger; 
because ..."

she had to take care of herself, 
things that must done after bearing down and birthing a baby. 
The babe couldn't have laid on that bed of hay for long. 
Mary brought the Gift of Heaven into her arms. She was holding Jesus.

The first time I saw this nativity my heart melted. I had never seen the scene created with the Christ Child in his mother's arms. She held him and He holds me. This redemption by God's Son for those he created for relationship, was pure love. It truly is the "greatest story ever told."