Month: April 2016

only imagine

I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me. ~Mercy Me 

I have heard and sang along to the song, “I Can Only Imagine”, countless times since its release by Mercy Me in 2001. For 15 years, the lyrics moved through my brain and out of my mouth but they never really stuck. Then I met an amazing young lady, Christina.

Yesterday, Christina performed the purest, most honest version of this mega-hit at Lancaster Bible College’s Chapel. But before she began, Christina shared with the crowd what this song means to her.

Christina is intellectually and physically disabled. Her life has been spent in a wheelchair.  So when Christina sang she can ‘only imagine’, everyone in the audience knew she spoke those words from a  true and hard place. She can only imagine what her life will be like without feeding tubes, wheelchairs and braces. Those are very real and nasty necessities of her life here and now, but not forever.

Surrounded by Your Glory what will my heart feel.? Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your Presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine. I can only imagine. ~ Mercy Me

Christina can only imagine if she will dance before Jesus  because she is unable to dance now. She has never swayed back and forth nor tapped her toes to a snappy tune, ever. She hasn’t danced at a wedding, or just to be silly when no one is looking.

She can only imagine if she will stand in His Presence or fall on her knees because she has never experienced standing or kneeling in this earthly life. She hasn’t had the privilege to stand in awe of God’s Majesty or kneel humbly in Holy reverence. 

Christina longs to worship her Lord and Savior without any limitations or restrictions. What will it be like to be totally free to worship and just be whole? She can only imagine.

Joni Eareckson Tada can only imagine too. A diving accident at age 17 put her in a wheelchair for  47 years. Joni shares from her devotional, Beside Bethesda, her plea before God during some dark days, “Oh, God, I can’t live this way! Please, if I’m not going to die, You’re just going to have to show me how to live!”

Yesterday, Christina and her friends  demonstrated how they have chosen to live their lives ‘here’ until they reach ‘there’: Heaven. They praised God with their songs and movements throughout the undiluted, filter-free, ‘where are the kleenex?’ Chapel service. It was raw and real; God was smiling.

They know this imperfect life is only temporary; this is not their forever home, these are not their forever bodies. They know when they enter His Presence, all their brokenness will be made whole. Their bodies will no longer be confined or contorted, and there will be no need for feeding tubes, wheelchairs, or braces. They will be forever free; they can only imagine how that freedom will feel.

The first time Christina stands up will be in the Presence of Jesus.  I imagine she might do some dancing too.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

for the birds

I could hear the small waves of water hitting the deck. Glancing outside, I found the culprit. A chubby robin was enjoying an afternoon bath.  The rotund robin was standing in the shallow bird bath joyfully splashing away.

imageFor most birds, bathing  plays an important role in feather maintenance. My robin friend was just doing some feather maintenance. With age, I have developed an appreciation for body part maintenance too.

With the warmer temperatures, the bird bath has become a busy gathering place for my feathered friends. I am enjoying a wonderful variety of visitors: the brilliant blue of the blue jays, the bold yellow of the finches, the radical red of the male cardinals, and the bobbing black heads of the black-capped chickadees.  They come to wet their whistles and enjoy a drink-break from nest building and caring for their hatchlings. Some stay long enough for a quick dip too.

With the enjoyment of this ever-changing bird show comes the responsibility of keeping the bird bath filled with clean water. Although the birds do not seem to have a discriminating taste as to whether their bathing and drinking water is clean or dirty. But it is important to me that they enjoy clean water. So every other day, I fill a pitcher full of clean water and walk outside to refill the bird bath. If the bird bath is not clean, I take the time to clean it before filling it with fresh water. The neighbors have probably dubbed me the crazy bird-lady.

It is important to me that my visiting, colorful guests have access to clean water. If you have a pet, you probably feel the same way. But today as I was pouring the water into the bird bath, I thought about the children and adults around the world that do not have access to clean water. What about them? Isn’t it important for them to enjoy a cool drink on a warm day? Isn’t it important for them to enjoy a bath in clean water to help wash away the dirt of poverty?image

When something is in abundance, I tend to take it for granted. Clean water is all around me; everyday, everywhere. No matter where I go, I can find clean water and a working toilet. Not so for everyone. Around the world, 748 million people lack clean water. More than twice as many, a staggering 2.5 billon, lack basic sanitation facilities, according to the WHO and UNICEF. These numbers serve as harsh reminders as to the importance and urgency for the upcoming Cause Trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for clean water in Tanzania.

One month from today, our adventure begins. My husband and I will travel to Tanzania with the our soon-to-be-new friends and Compassion International. Honestly, many fears and doubts have clouded my original excitement and giddiness about this trip. Why are we doing this? But when I take a drink of cold, clean water, I am reminded. When I enjoy the luxury of a warm, running shower and a flushing toilet, I am reminded. As I witness the birds enjoying clean water, I am definitely reminded. Clean water isn’t just for the birds; it is for everyone.

If you want to join in the cause for clean water in Tanzania, please click here

Thanks!

Let’s Walk Worthy!

 

strangers

Included in my quiet-talk-to-God-time this week are  the prayer concerns of two women whom I have never met. They are strangers to me. I selected two prayer cards out of several large baskets containing approximately 7,000 prayer cards at a Priscilla Shirer’s conference.  Coincidence? Random luck? No, I think not. My God is too big for coincidence and luck.

These two cards share serious real-life concerns of two strangers. As Priscilla reminded the crowd,  “Don’t take a card, if you aren’t serious about praying. This card represents someone’s life.” Yep, these are real pleas from real people.

I can hear the heartbreak in their words. “That my husband will have his eyes opened and he will see God’s love for him. I know one day his heart, too, will be opened and he will let God’s love in.”

imageI can hear the desperation in their words. “Please release the bondage over my marriage and my health. Please cover my life with Your Blood.”

I can hear the urgency too. “My first child, a little girl, is due any day now.”

So I pick up these cards and pray for these strangers. I talk to God about a husband who doesn’t know God’s love yet. “Yes, Lord, please open his eyes and his heart.” I talk to God about this precious unborn child. “Lord, please bring this baby girl safely into the world.” I talk to God about these strangers. ” Lord, help them to become strong and faithful women. Bless and strengthen their marriages.”

It is an extreme  privilege and serious responsibility to bring their concerns to the throne of our Almighty God.  In coming before God, the distance between me and the strangers grows smaller. Commonality is revealed. I don’t feel like we are strangers; perhaps more like kindred souls. We are striving to become strong women of God; traveling life’s challenging road together.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)

On the cool flip side of this is knowing that a complete stranger is praying over my prayer card this week. I shared with a stranger what is weighing  heavily on me. The cry of my heart spilled onto a card that was placed into a basket and plucked out by a stranger. Now, a stranger is going boldly before the God of the universe with my real-life concerns. She holds the card in her hand and talks to our God about me. What a blessing!

No, we aren’t strangers after all. We are sisters in Christ; bonded through prayer. I thank God for my two new nameless friends. As C. S. Lewis  said, ” Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 

Let’s Walk Worthy!

photo credit: thinkandletthink.com

 

haba na haba

In a few weeks, I will be in Tanzania attempting to use my very limited Swahili vocabulary. ‘Jambo’  is hello. ‘Asante sana’  is thank you very much. I can remember those. Venturing beyond those simple phrases and I will be fumbling and mumbling. Thankfully, Tanzanians are very loving. They will encourage my feeble attempts to speak their language and overlook my mistakes. They will give much grace as much grace will be needed.

A new Swahili phrase I am appreciating more and more in my life is ‘haba na haba’ which means little by little. Perhaps it is due to my increasing age and my decreasing mobility that my life seems to fall into the mode of “little by little”. Trying to lose some weight? ‘Haba na haba’. Trying to clean the house? ‘Haba na haba’.

Recently,  my neighborhood has been buzzing with mulching, mowing and movement. Clearly it is time to throw off winter and get spring-time down and dirty. I walked outside but turned around and ran back inside. It was just too much; too many sticks, too many left-over dead leaves, too much work. It was overwhelming. I didn’t know where or how to start so I chose not to start. I did nothing. Instead of heaping on self-imposed guilt, I just needed to go ‘haba na haba’. I didn’t need to conquer the entire yard, just start with a small area. Afterall, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. ‘Haba na haba’.

When the Israelites were facing their elephant – conquering the Promised Land and all their enemies – God had a plan for success.

I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. Exodus 23:27,28 (NIV)

Then the “but”.  But how will God accomplish this?

But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. Exodus 23: 30 (NIV)

‘Haba na haba’. God will drive out their enemies little by little; for their own good and to achieve success. image

While in Tanzania, my husband and the other brave members of the Compassion Team will be trekking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a very challenging 19,341 feet. As the elevation increases and oxygen decreases, their guides will be reminding them to go ‘haba na haba’. One step at a time. Pace is important; acclimatization is a slow process. Go slow, take your time. You get to the top ‘haba na haba’.

My journey to know God is ‘haba na haba’.  My plan? Spend time with Him each day and repeat daily for the rest of my earthly life. He will go before me, He will drive out my enemies, little by little, ‘haba na haba’.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

photo credit: pinterest.com

Brood V

Cicada Mania has begun! Brood V periodical cicadas are on their way. Soon billions of cicadas with bulging red eyes will crawl out of the earth after 17 years underground and will overrun the entire East Coast. Once the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit, they begin to burrow their way to the surface, climb a tree, and shed their nymphal skin.

They will arrive in such numbers that people from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered 600 to one. Maybe more, according to The Guardian. They have one goal in mind: mating. Afterall, its been 17 years.image

Not quite ready for the invasion? Don’t worry, you still have a few weeks to get your cicada pins, shirts, mugs, pillows and other sundries. If you have been longing for the taste of some crunchy cicadas, this summer you can enjoy cicada pizza, cicada ice cream, cicada popcorn, cicada burgers, and cicada cookies. Warning: they are high in mercury so beware!

While mowing the yard throughout spring and summer, these guests may get up close and personal. Cicadas are attracted to vibrating machinery, such as power tools and lawn mowers. They think it is a chorus of fellow cicadas and they may land on you. To rid yourself of this cicada harassment, simply mow or use power tools early in the day or later in the evening when they are less active. You may want to wear a hat also, they do pee. FYIimage

I discovered there is an amazing amount of information on these unusual insects. I found some interesting facts, some fun facts and some just weird stuff. For example, I learned that they have various eye colors. While most have red eyes, they can also have white, gray, blue, yellow, or multi-colored but no green. They have 5 eyes: 2 compound and 3 simple. Having additional eyes doesn’t seem to aid them with flying; they tend to bump into things. 

With the shedding of their shells, cicadas are representative of personal change, renewal, rebirth and transformation.  Since cicadas don’t go through a complete metamorphosis like butterflies or moths,  there is no pupal stage. They transform from one fully functioning state to another. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I crawled out of my old life leaving it behind. I was made new. All that was remaining of my former life was a shell.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

With over 100 trees surrounding my house, I will be hosting many of the Brood V cicadas. When I see their empty shells clinging to the hickory and maple trees, I will be reminded that I am a new creation! My old life is just an empty shell thanks to an empty grave. I have been set free to fly.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

fixer upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines are remodeling pros on the TV show, “Fixer Upper”. They save homes that look hopeless by renovating the imperfections. In the end, they reveal the home as  it always intended to be: beautiful.

I was a self-anointed “fixer upper”.  I identified people, usually those closest to me, who were in desperate need of help; my help, my fixing-up.  As project manager,  I had identified what needed to be renovated. Let’s gut this and get rid of all of that!image

I scribbled lots of remodeling notes for all my “projects” during the messages at church. My always-critical mind was at work. Yes, ________ would benefit from this.  Yes, this would really help __________.   Yes, this will finally get through to _________. Praise, Jesus!

But when I excitedly arrived at the job site with the must-do renovations, I was met with resistance and anger and tears. Again and again. Over and over. Something’s not working. Why isn’t this working? Why won’t they listen to me? I am sharing because I care. I am nagging because I care. I am talking very loudly and demonstratively because I care. Dang it! Can’t they tell how much I care?

It all seemed so clear to me.  If they would  just listen to my remodeling suggestions and fix the obvious problems, then life would be better. Isn’t that what we all want? The better life of rainbows and puppies down on easy street. What was broken; would now be fixed. What was outdated; would now be new. Everything would be better, at least from my perspective. This seemed like a very Jesus-like thing to do; helping others to a better life. Didn’t Jesus want me to help others?

Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. According to his definition, I qualify for the insanity diagnosis. I have been doing the “fixer upper” thing over and over again with no new results. Just the same strained, awkward, and broken relationships and a large bump on my head from beating it against a wall.

Not only were my “projects” in misery, so was I. Peace was nowhere to be found but weariness was everywhere. I needed “self-renovation”. I needed a DIY on myself. The nearest, dearest people around me had become projects to be managed; instead of people to be loved.

Thankfully, God provided His perfect blueprint.  He reminded me of our roles. My job was not as a fixer upper; my job was to love and keep on loving. Simply love others as He loves me.  I can’t change or fix people; only He can. That’s His job; He’s the foreman.

Jesus just loved people. He was always loving. He loved while walking and talking to people. He loved while hanging on the cross.

So I am putting away my tool belt.  There are apologies that need to be said and love that needs to be given. I am fixing my eyes on Jesus and the only renovating project I see is the one reflected in His Loving Eyes: me.

We can’t tell people to come as they are, but insist they change before they arrive. People grow where they are loved. Bob Goff

 

Let’s Walk Worthy!

Photo credit: maxwellinterior.com

 

 

Captain Kirk’s chair

When I am home, I live in sweat pants. To be completely truthful, I also wear sweat pants  in public too. (I know you feel sorry for my husband and for the general public.) I just want to be comfortable. I want to feel at ease and be relaxed plus I have lowered the bar considerably as far as my appearance goes. ( I know you really feel sorry for my husband.)

After I get into my comfortable sweat pants, I climb into my big, soft, comfy do-it-all chair. My husband gave me this amazing chair for Christmas. We call it “Captain Kirk’s chair” from Star Trek. It does it all: reclines, swivels and rocks in 360 degrees. It is awesome. image

As I sink down into it, I am swallowed up. Ahhhh. I am in my happy place.

I open up His Holy Word and begin spending time with the Author. I am completely comfortable. I can say whatever comes to mind; all the good, the bad, the messy and the really ugly. This is me-being-the-real-me place; the real me no one else wants to see or gets to see. (Not even my husband. Sorry, honey.) I can be myself without any fear of rejection or condemnation. There is no pretending or masquerading like I tend to do imagearound people. (How are you? Oh, I am fine.) The mask is off and the kleenex are out.

In this quiet time, all is right in the universe and the Federation, just like when Captain Kirk is at the helm of the USS Enterprise. Me and God in Captain Kirk’s chair are ready for the Klingons and the Romulans. He can handle all my issues and a tribble infestation too. (“Trouble with Tribbles”, Season 2, Episode 15) image

During our recent time together, I was reminded of His Power in the showdown on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18.  Instead of strange aliens, the battle is between my God-of-Everything and Baal.

The stage is set: two altars and two bulls. The god who answers by fire- He is God.  

Baal is up first but he is a no-show. Now, it is God’s turn to remind His people how powerful He is. After drenching the altar with 12 large jars of water, Elijah prayed.

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

1 Kings   18:38 (NIV)

Boom! I love it. Far better than Mr. Sulu firing the photon torpedoes. Reading this passage while sitting in my Captain Kirk chair, I am in awe and I am pumped! I join in the chant, “The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God.” (v. 39)

When it is time to leave my comfortable chair and put on normal (but restrictive) pants, I can explore His World, I can seek out those who need to know Him, and I can boldly go because God is already there.

Let’s Walk Worthy!

Photo credits: my10online.com and memory-alpha.wikia.com

MIA joy

I had lost my joy, it was MIA.  Was it really gone, or had I simply misplaced it along with my car keys? Where does one go to find their missing joy? I knew joy wouldn’t be found at my extravagant pity parties that I had been hosting. Nope. Gotta keep looking. The enemy’s lies moved the darkness smothering close into my personal space which made the search even more difficult. But God heard my cries and He was ready to take action. He was going to use an Irish monk and an Irish band to help me find my joy again. Pretty cool!

Joseph Aloysius Marmion was born in Dublin, Ireland on April 1, 1858. He  was born into a large and very religious family.  From  a very early age, Joseph was seemingly “consumed with some kind of inner fire or enthusiasm for the things of God.” *

He entered the seminary at the early age of 16. One day, Joseph learned of the struggle of a poor, elderly woman who was well-known to his family. She had been summoned by a creditor to appear before the magistrate for an unpaid debt. Joseph had been saving his money over time to take a trip that he had promised himself.  In his savings was the exact amount of the woman’s debt.

Young Joseph struggled with this dilemma: be generous or enjoy the fruit of his hard-earned savings. His internal struggle lasted throughout the night. In the morning, Joseph gave his savings to the poor woman. He chose to look beyond himself and help someone in need. That is where we find joy; when we step out of the shadow of “self”.

Joy is the echo of God’s life in us. ~ Joseph Aloysius Marmion 

Rend Collective is an Irish band who call  themselves a “celebration” band. Last night, I enjoyed  their foot-stompin, get-on-my-feet worship celebration.  It was 2 hours of joy!

“We would rather be defined by joy, fun, freedom and laughter than any genre title or pop-culture label.”

Gareth Gilkeson of Rend Collective

The band performed the song, “The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength”. I knew they played it just for me; God knew I needed a big, loud reminder. He was telling me,  “Look, we found your joy together!” I had found my MIA joy when I stepped out of my very large shadow of “self” and into His loving arms. We celebrated with an Irish jig!

The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. In the darkness, I’ll dance. In the shadows, I’ll sing. The joy of the Lord is my strength. ~ Rend Collective 

Reminder to me: Outside of my shadow of “self” and my daily pity parties is where my joy resides. One day it would be an honor to be remembered as someone who lived her life consumed with some kind of inner fire or enthusiasm for the things of God! Sounds like the definition of a joy-filled life!image

Let’s walk worthy!

* Wikipedia

The Box

IMG_0562

She balanced the box steadily with great confidence. Obviously, she had done this before.  It had just rained, but her footing was sure and determined. It was not the man’s job to carry the box;  this was her role and she was the pro. The women transport their water containers and baskets with graceful harmony daily; they are my heroes.

We were walking through a rural area to visit a home in Tanzania with Compassion International.  Compassion practices hospitality. They donate a box of goodies to each home visited. The box contains bags of rice and beans; cooking oil and other staples.

It was a privilege to be welcomed into the modest home. There were no hesitations at the differences in our skin colors or our confusing languages. Nope. Just excited to get to know one another and become friends through the help of translators. There was time for questioning and answering. There was time for laughing, crying and praying – together. God is always the closest at these most precious times.

At the end of our visiting time, we presented the box. Their sincere gratitude and appreciation was humbling. Asante sana (thank you very much in Swahili)

After hugs and good byes, our group traveled back to the buses. I walked with a Pastor who had accompanied us. I chattered about the box and how it was such a blessing to the family. Pastor Joseph wisely responded that it really wasn’t about what was in the box; it was the love behind the box. The box was a reminder to the family (usually a mother and several young children) that they were loved. The box spoke loudly of love and acceptance. It was given without any expectations; the box was a love gift.

Love. Everything in life always circles back to love.  Love circles from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb.  Love circles from the valleys of my darkest sins to the mountaintops full of His forgiveness and grace.

My box experience took place in March 2014. At the end of May, I will return to Tanzania. I am looking forward to two very special home visits; those of my Compassion children. When the boxes are presented, I will joyfully look beyond the rice and beans to see the brilliance of God’s love behind the box. Asante sana

Let’s Walk Worthy!