Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I had a much-needed tranquil Christmas day. Never got dressed to the point of being presentable. Didn’t even make a Christmas dinner—just heated up leftovers. Napped twice, watched a couple of movies, finished a book. And now look at me: I’m finally in a proper frame of mind for blogging. It’s been weeks.
The problem has not been a matter of nothing to say; it’s that my brain’s been running in too many directions, like my oldest son’s puppy who can’t seem to settle with one bit of mischief over another.
I have to admit the past few months have been tumultuous. Well, maybe the past year or two. Okay, the last four years, at least. And the chaos has had little to do with physical circumstances or relationships, though the Lord has drawn those into the picture from time to time. But the core of what I’m talking about is an inward and spiritual revolution going on in the midst of my normally serene heart.
I used to be afraid of it. Then I hated it. Then I embraced it. Now I’m on a wild expedition through personally uncharted territory. And having the time of my life. Not that it isn’t still scary at times or that I don’t long for peaceful waters occasionally, but this . . . . This is living.
And I only bring it up because many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Not that you know specifically what Jesus is doing in my heart and mind, but you sense what he’s trying to do in yours.
It’s not safe, you know. It never is. But I don’t believe any thinking person could argue that Jesus is safe. When one of the children in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia asks if Aslan the Lion—the Christ-figure in the story—is safe, she gets this answer: “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
So I’m praying for you now. Praying that you’ll let the Lord of heaven and earth lead a rebellion in you. That he’ll turn upside down whatever is comfortable and complacent in your life. That he’ll start at the fringe of what you know—really know—to be good and true and noble and perfect and use it to upset the rest of your life. Don’t be shocked. Or frightened. Or resistant.
It’s what you were made for.
So . . . share with me. What is he doing in you just now, or calling you to, or making you question?
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Almost every homeowner joined in on the fun, except for the lady that yelled at them to go away. When our time was up, I dropped the guys back off at their youth group party. I haven’t heard whether or not their skis were voted best trade, but I thought they did terrific. Now I’m sitting by the fire in my living room enjoying a quiet evening after the hour of competitive excitement.
And I just read these words in The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch: “. . . faith . . . [means] we stake our lives upon a conviction: It is far closer to raw courage than it is to mere belief. A missional church is as imaginative as it is bold. And missional leadership is courageous and willing to try new things and risk all if necessary to see the kingdom come.”
Bob and I have been thinking a lot about being missional lately. About what it means to minister in America today where the culture is rapidly changing, growing more diverse and global and spiritual while at the same time giving less and less credence to faith in Jesus Christ. We see so many people who are discouraged, depressed, de-spirited, and demoralized. They’re frustrated with churches, with politicians, with the status quo. They’re too busy, they’re worried about the environment, they’re skeptical of institutional anything.
In a big way, my husband and I want to do the hard work of figuring out how to enter our culture as missionaries. It’s simply not the environment we grew up in. And let’s be honest—too often, churches and ministries and Christians are so far removed from the world as it really is today that we’ve become ineffective in it. Bob and I are striving to become incarnational Christians—to actually enter into the lives of not-yet-Christians in a way that connects to them where they are so that they might know God and participate in his kingdom. Though the task is daunting and even confounding at times, the ideas we’ve tossed around are exciting. And scary. And risky.
But somehow I sense we’re trading up for something bigger and better.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
It started about a week ago with a warm wet spot on the carpet in front of my sink. I rubbed our schnauzer’s nose in it, sprayed it with disinfectant, and blotted it up. It came back. The dog was outside.
It took five days for a plumber to get here, break the slab, and fix the leak. Now there’s a hole in the cabinet floor, no carpet on my side of the bathroom, and huge turbo fans pointed at the bare concrete.
I didn’t know the carpet in the closet got wet, too. Actually, just sort of in the doorway of the closet. But I didn’t clean the closet out like I did the bathroom cabinet. Which means the two very nice young men who worked for us today got a glimpse of what my life is really like.
Shelves sagging with old tax returns and boxes of keepsakes. A huge, impractical bag from Mexico. Tons and tons of old photos in shoeboxes. A basket of dirty laundry. A half dozen turtlenecks that I can’t tolerate wearing anymore, but am afraid to throw out. In case, you know, I change my mind about strangling. A pile of pajamas and workout clothes and swimsuits and stuff that I really don’t have a place for. At least they were on a shelf and not on the floor.
Don’t misunderstand. The floor is a cluttered mess, too. The whole thing looks like a tornado struck. Frankly, it’s a place where I can throw everything I’m indecisive about. A place where I can tell myself I’ll deal with it later. A private place to keep my dirty and not so dirty secrets.
It embarrassed me that these kindly carpet strangers saw my closet today. But they were professional about it, and we all acted like it didn’t matter.
I’m often just as embarrassed when kindly friends see what’s really inside my own heart. There’s a lot of clutter there. And maybe that’s normal and maybe it’s not, but I can tell you, it’s often not pretty. Thankfully, I have help in cleaning it out—God help, that is.
I’m kind of starting to like the whole transparency thing—blogging, for example—for a couple of reasons. First of all, it means I have to do something about the mess inside (accountability). Secondly, I’m discovering that there are a lot of others who’re hanging on to some of the same things in their heart-closets, and somehow we find mutual encouragement in the sharing.
And we’re all being wonderfully unprofessional about it and acting like it matters.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Sometimes I wonder how these kinds of “backward” thinking work. When Jesus says to love my enemies and bless those who curse me, it really is the best way to live. When he says to trust that he will provide for me—despite what my bank account looks like—I can trust him. When he says I’m strongest when I’m weak, I can believe it’s true.
God’s paradoxes don’t make sense to us, and they don’t have to. They just have to be true. And the thing is, we won’t know if they’re true unless we believe they are and live them out.
Rob Bell writes in his thought-provoking book Velvet Elvis, that “It’s not so much that the Christian faith has a lot of paradoxes. It’s that it is a lot of paradoxes. And we cannot resolve a paradox. We have to let it be what it is.”
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.
If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.
. . . do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
If [someone] sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.
In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
A paradox is a seeming contradiction, an illogical thought, an absurdity. And, frankly, so much of what God asks of us is absurd. By human standards, that is. We’re all about self-preservation, getting ahead, winning. He’s all about transforming us into his likeness. And we can’t keep on functioning by human standards and expect to become like our Father.
That would be absurd.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
“How do you let God be enough?”
“How do you feel the presence of God in your life?”
“How do you think in terms of being on a spiritual journey?”
“How do you surrender to God?”
Granted, my answer is only a first step and will probably be frustrating to a number of people. But it really does begin to explain my experience on this faith journey.
In a sense, this simple answer requires hard work. Very hard, sometimes. But, praise God, it’s the only work truly required of a disciple. So, what is it?
In John 6:28-29, John records an interesting and often-overlooked exchange between Jesus and his disciples: “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”
When I read that, I almost want to say, "Are you kidding me?" I mean, seriously, I've put an awful lot of effort into works during this life of mine. What about the whole "faith without deeds is dead" argument proposed in James 2?
But, honestly, my first step toward growth in any spiritual concern has been to believe it is true or possible or the best way to live. To believe God really is enough, no matter how I feel. Or to believe that He is present at all times in my life. To believe that I am on a spiritual journey that He’s constantly speaking into if only I will listen. To believe that surrendering anything and everything to God will produce peace, joy, completeness, and satisfaction in the deepest places of my soul.
When I choose to believe these things are true, then I consciously decide to try them out through practical experience. I know everyone’s used the example of Indiana Jones in the “Last Crusade,” but I can’t help it. You most likely know the scene where, in order to save his father’s life, Indiana has to cross an invisible bridge spanning a deep and deadly chasm. He agonizes between the desire to save his father’s life and his fear of stepping off a cliff onto nothingness. In fact, he can’t even imagine an invisible bridge is there; he seems to have no idea what will happen when he takes his first step. But he knows this: his father’s life will be saved only if he’s willing to step out in faith. So, he swallows, closes his eyes, and moves forward.
And even though I’d like to tell you it’s different for me, oftentimes it’s not. I’m just as nervous about what my life will look like—what ground I’ll lose or what pain I’ll suffer—when I choose to act upon my belief. Because really believing can be hard work.
But I can testify to this: believing and moving forward in faith really is the best way to live.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I hate being wrong. I hate being wrong to be complicated by being misunderstood. But, mostly, I hate being out of a right relationship with someone.
I have to admit that during those three days I got progressively more irritable with my family. I even snapped at Bob one night—something ridiculously absurd like "I'll think less of you as a person if you don't turn out the light," even though I was the last one in bed and had just walked past the lamp.
I had to apologize to him, too.
So, I couldn’t help wondering if I really meant what I’ve said about God being enough. If I believed it, why was this circumstance so painful? And then I realized it was because I craved forgiveness. Or, at least, I craved the opportunity to apologize, to do my part in restoring the relationship, human forgiveness never being something we can secure for ourselves.
Staying connected is what I crave with God, too. When my relationship with him is damaged or distant—and that’s ALWAYS my fault, never his—I’m all out of sorts. I can try to ignore the issue by pretending something else is bothering me, but there are few things that truly get me worked up when I’m in a right relationship with my Heavenly Father.
And the glorious thing is that his forgiveness is guaranteed. He draws me close, soothes my troubled heart, and lets me know that we’re going to be just fine. That’s good news for the journey.
Friday, November 03, 2006
When I say I simply gave up, I don’t mean it was easy. It was like giving birth—painful, difficult, exhausting. Agonizing, even. And then it was over, and I held this precious new thing in my arms: peace.
I see people who are so fretful and unhappy and agitated and angry. They’re disappointed, depressed, and discouraged because, frankly, no one around them is cooperating with their idea of what life was supposed to be. Not even God.
It doesn’t seem to matter how hard they try, how desperately they pray, how unwavering their commitments to their goals and dreams are, things just aren’t going as planned. Their jobs are unfulfilling, their kids are screwing up, their spouses are disappointments, their friends are lukewarm, and they never seem to get ahead. And then they realize they’re blessed in every regard, so the problem must be rooted inside themselves. Perhaps if they were just more talented, lovable, organized, spiritual, diligent, worthy of respect, wise, attractive, things would be better.
I know, because I felt all those things. At any rate, I grew tired of being unhappy for no good reason, so I finally told the Lord, “Forget it. I don’t even want to want those things anymore. I give up. I’m weak, I’m incredibly imperfect, and I’m going nowhere, anyway. I surrender.”
“Now, you’re getting it.”
“Oh.” I had my doubts. “Okay, so will You be enough for me?”
“Just watch Me.”
As I said in my previous post, at first I begged God to be enough for me every time I felt discouraged or disappointed or hurt or insignificant or incompetent. Which was often. Sometimes, when I take my eyes off Him, I have to ask again.
But mostly, I’m just learning to trust that He is enough. That no day has to look like what I expected. As a result, I’ve had some amazing days.
I’m learning that no person has to act or react the way I want them to. And you know what? That’s removed a lot of unfair expectations, frustration, and disappointment because I know the people in my life are ultimately in God’s hands anyway. Not mine. They never have been.
I’m seeing that God’s use of the gifts He’s given me is more creative, more rewarding, more true—or “truer” as my brother Brian Mashburn would say—and more effective than anything I had in mind. Besides, it’s simpler to let God use my gifts as He sees fit . . . I was working awfully hard trying to be impressive with them.
Surrender. People ask me all the time how to do it. It’s hard for us to really get our minds—our wills—around this concept. We’re just so dadgum sure we know what we or our loved ones or our church needs, and we’re so dadgum afraid God won’t agree. And He probably won’t. Because what He has in mind is so much better.
Letting God be enough is like living on the wild side: wonderfully unpredictable, delightfully challenging, deliciously satisfying, and unexplainably peaceful.
That’s enough for me.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Once I quit pursuing happiness and fulfillment and started pursuing the heart of God, my outlook and perspective shifted dramatically. And, oddly enough, I began feeling content and fulfilled, even though my circumstances hadn’t changed at all.
It wasn’t easy. In those first weeks it seemed I prayed a kazillion times a day, “Lord, be enough for me.” Every time I felt frustrated, hurt, ignored, attacked, disappointed, I prayed. And almost immediately my heart would still, my mind would center on the truth that He is enough, and His peace would replace my turmoil.
And He began doing things. Using my writing for His purpose, as I’d always said I wanted. Leading me into deeper relationships with people who, if they don’t always get me, at least respect and love and support me. He challenged me with my recent trip to Africa, and then removed the fears I would normally have had about our travel, the political conditions, and my own shortcomings.
Let me reiterate, nothing outward has really changed. It’s all been inner transformation. It doesn’t matter that one of the judges of the writing contest I entered last spring hated my novel. God is enough. It doesn’t matter that I don’t quite fit into women’s ministry the way I used to. God is enough. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see the specific direction God’s taking me in ministry. He is enough. It doesn’t matter that I find refreshment in solitude, and I had little of it in Zimbabwe. God is enough. It doesn’t matter that my job requires me to defer rather than take charge as I’m inclined to do. God is enough. It doesn’t matter that my kids are growing up and making their own choices without my input. God is enough. It doesn’t matter when an expected invitation—or praise—doesn’t come. God is enough. It doesn’t matter when I can tell I’ve under-impressed someone. God is enough.
I’m still learning what it means to really believe God is enough. But I know that He is.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The above paragraph and those that follow are thoughts I shared with a few friends last April after my introspective question: “Is God Enough?” Looking back, I can see what God was doing in my heart. It just gets better. But for now, I’ll let you pick up where I left off on my last post . . .
I don't know how much further along I am in understanding how to let God be enough for me, but I've had an interesting week. A more satisfying week. A more settled week. Of course, I know God IS enough, but to really feel it when your emotions tell you differently is another matter.
I suppose the greatest and most difficult insight I've had over the past several days has been how juvenile my expectations of Him have become. I want, want, want. Guess that'd be great if it was all about wanting, wanting, wanting God. But usually it's more along the line of wanting things to work out my way. Because, of course, "I only want what best serves His Kingdom." Oh, brother.
I've been pondering how low I must have sunk that he has had to teach me so patiently (read that as "so long"). I now see that during the past year God has removed most of my usual props--the things I normally rely on to feel significant, useful, approved of, or applauded. Not exactly Job revisited, but I'm pretty much standing alone right now, just learning to let the Lord be enough for me. As if I could handle anything more.
I know I'm not alone, though. Besides God, I'm discovering a few brave souls willing to truly love and support me just the way I am. Even if I do test their ability to sort out my ramblings.
And about significance. Well, maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be. At least not when your significance lies in the value others ascribe to you rather than the value God gives you.
Dadgum, I'm embarrassed that these things are so basic. I used to KNOW them. Not sure what happened other than that it's the same old deceptions just prancing around in makeup and high heels.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Most of you have no idea how accurate this statement has proved to be in my life this year. While I’m not proud of where I’ve been, the conclusions I’ve come to since—by God’s grace—have changed everything. The remainder of this post is taken from my journal entry last March. It’s not important that you understand exactly where I was. And I ask that you be patient to read my next few posts describing some of what God’s been doing in my heart since—it’s been awesome. But for now, just read. And maybe consider what truth you need to face on this journey of yours.
Is God enough?
I know in my mind that he is, and I sense in my heart that he is, but somewhere—at my core—I'm wrestling with that question. Maybe it's disappointment speaking. Maybe it's disillusionment clouding my thoughts.
Funny. Disillusionment means the illusion has been removed. Was the illusion that God is enough? Or was the illusion that things will work out, that he will remove my hurt, that when he's on my side he'll bring me success, acceptance, and honor?
I've been troubled lately--afraid the former is true. Afraid that no matter what everyone says, no matter what the songwriters pen, no matter what I've written, taught, and assured people of in the past, God isn't enough. How trite the DJ's have sounded on the Christian radio stations, purring that "The Lord is the answer for every heartache." Well, I have the Lord, and my heart still aches.
But despite my doubts, in my gut, I'm sure the latter is true. I'm ashamed that I've been deluded into thinking like the immature think on these matters—like Christianity is some sort of happy pill—but it's the first thing that's really made sense to me in months. No wonder I've felt so isolated, inadequate, ugly, rejected. No wonder I haven't understood the pain, the loneliness, the tears, the sense of loss. I know better.
It forces me to ask—what now? Am I willing to let God be enough? I'd better be, for he is abundant in his giving, whether it's love, mercy, grace, or comfort.
But can I pursue God alone? Can that be enough for me? Can I really let him do what he will with my talents, desires, and passions? Can I be all right with being ignored, forgotten, undervalued by man? Can I accept furrowed brows, puzzled faces, changed topics of conversation, and outright disagreement when I share my ideas and heart?
Is God enough?
I know I want my answer to be a resounding, Yes! I sense that if I can get my mind around this concept, grasp hold of it with all the passion inside me, then I will be one of the most blessed and content women on the face of the earth.
So, here's what I think: I believe God's inviting me into deep intimacy with him like I've never even imagined. That he wants to be my food, my drink, my very breath. St. Ignacious said, "The glory of God is man fully alive," but I haven't really been living. I've been yearning, not for bad things, but for lesser things. I've been searching for purpose, meaning, significance. I've wanted my life to matter--but it can never matter like I want it to unless I get this one thing: God, alone, is enough.
Until he is enough for me, he will never be fully formed in me. I'll never be fully alive. Fully glorifying him. Writing, ministering, encouraging, praying, leading, teaching--none of it will matter unless it glorifies him.
God help me . . . I want to believe it. To get it. To live it.
Can I let God be enough for me?
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
In September Zimbabwe looks like a land waking up from winter. Like the purple flowers of the jacaranda tree and bright red bougainvillea. Like green popo fruit trying to turn ripe and yellow. Like small gardens filled with kale and tomatoes. Like baobab trees stripped of their bark, a sacrifice to woven mats.
It looks like the dusty, cracked feet of a twenty-year-old village woman. Like mothers nursing babies. Like the tattered clothing of an orphan. It looks like women carrying every manner of thing on their heads—baskets, suitcases, bags of mealy-meal, bundles of thatch, firewood, tall buckets. It looks like women and children carrying their little ones or siblings strapped to their backs with beach towels.
It looks like coffee colored skin, dark and glistening. Like young eyes that have seen too much. Like curious glances and warm smiles. Like twisted feet and untreated tumors. Like the sallow complexion of HIV.
It looks like bricks made from the soil of termite hills. Like round huts with thatched roofs. Like ox carts driven by small boys or young men. Like old preachers in faded suits. Like people walking or sitting or bicycling along the road. Like a pitch black countryside at night. Like hopeful vendors rushing to your car windows with hands full of bright orange carrots or baskets of oranges, lemons, apples.
It looks like prayerful dependence in the midst of pain and suffering.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Like salty kapenta which moments beforehand were staring from your plate with sightless eyes.
It tastes like sadza, bland and thick.
Like sugary telephone pudding at the game park lodge. It tastes like the apples you eat in the backseat of a small extended cab pickup while bumping down a cratered single lane road.
It tastes like trail mix and granola bars you brought from home, a makeshift and welcomed lunch. It tastes like water you made sure came from a safe source.
It tastes like chicken fried so hard you cannot break or bend it. It tastes like pork and beans every morning for breakfast and strange sausages you pass along to someone hungry enough to appreciate them.
It tastes like pure spiritual milk in the midst of oppression.
Monday, October 09, 2006
In September Zimbabwe sounds like singing. Loud, warbling tones that somehow blend into the sweetest music. It sounds like young people clapping, keeping time with the rhythm of their voices.
It sounds like the delighted laughter or shy giggles of orphans.
Like widows ululating in thanksgiving. Like a hotel maid humming as she bends low, raking leaves with a small homemade whisk.
It sounds like the bleating of goats in the school yard and bells clanging around the necks of oxen pulling a cart or cattle meandering past the church gathered on a wide rock.
Like the crack of the masasa tree as its seed pods burst open. Like the squawk of guinea fowl.
It sounds like children along the roadside yelling, “Hello!” as your vehicle passes. Like fussy babies cradled in the arms of their grandmothers, for their mothers have died of AIDS.
It sounds like songs of praise drifting down a footpath through brittle grass in the midst of a barren land.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
In September Zimbabwe feels dry. Dry and dusty. Dust that covers your clothing, plasters your neck and arms, coats your hair until you feel like you’ve become as hard and worn as the dirt roads that carry you into the bush.
It feels like calloused hands grasping yours. Like the strong arms of a wizened old woman hugging you roughly. Like a young woman who embraces you, burying her face in your shoulder, reluctant to let you go. Like children crowding around, jostling you, trying to glimpse their faces on your digital camera.
It feels like the unrelenting firmness of timber spanning two boulders, an improvised church pew protected from the sun’s heat by the shade of a scraggly tree. Like cool water poured over your hands before you eat.
It feels like the surprising satisfaction of the Bread of Life in the midst of hunger.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Others who traveled before me kept saying, "I'll never forget the way Africa smells," so naturally, I wondered.
Well, maybe I went at the right time of year--early spring. Or maybe I was congested from too much dust in the air. At any rate, I struggled to put it into words.
But I was struck by this:
In September Zimbabwe smells like smoke. Smoke from a million cooking fires. From fields being burned in preparation for the planting season. From grass fires raging through the parched countryside. From vendors roasting maize on the street corners.
It smells of sweet blooming trees, climbing vines, and bushes. Of unwashed bodies and henhouses and boiled chicken.
It smells of fresh laundry washed in a tub outside and draped over fences or bushes to dry. Of dank shops and crowded classrooms-turned-churches, earthy breeze blowing in through open windows.
It smells of hard-to-explain hope in the midst of hopelessness.
Monday, October 02, 2006
I arrived home Friday and spent the weekend cocooned with my family, sleeping a lot and letting the stories begin to trickle out.
Loved worshiping with the church at Southwest on Sunday, though the tears flowed as we sang. I'm not entirely sure why, but maybe it was the fact that it was the first time I'd worshiped with these brothers and sisters after so many times of worship with my African spiritual family. And then there was the video.
Not a real video, of course. Just an imagined one playing through my mind. I saw old women carrying their grandbabies on their backs--the young parents dead from AIDS. I saw Chipo and Kuda and Lillian and Sihle--preacher's wives, all of them. I saw faith-filled Pamela balancing a Bible on her head and telling me what God has done in her life. I saw the women's prayer group in Harare, the Sanganai and Chigondo churches meeting under trees, the Christian women at St. Clemence standing by their huts singing us into their fellowship.
I saw orphans playing soccer with rolled plastic bags for a ball, the little boy who carried his small sister because she had a bad cut on her leg. I saw the feeding center at Dorowa, and heard the laughter of the children when they saw their photos on my digital camera. I listened as Precious read Hebrews 12:1-2 from a borrowed Shona Bible.
I saw timber laid across cinder blocks for pews, tattered Shona songbooks, and beautiful ebony faces. I heard the lively Shona song that every congregation seemed to know. I saw Freddie leading worship with the passion of King David. Saw the Sakubva widows--some very young and some very old--collecting their bags of mealy-meal with much rejoicing and thanksgiving. I saw hope and prayer and perseverance and faith and suffering.
I saw all these things, and I felt humbled. Connected. Inspired. Grateful. In awe of our great and loving Father. Thankful for Jesus.
And so the tears dripped from my chin as I wept through a song and a half and Bob put a tender hand on my knee.
Then I found my voice and joined in.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
So, on this eve before our departure, I'm reflecting back on the many things I've learned in the past few weeks. Here are a few:
1. Yahweh Sabboath--The Lord goes before us
2. There are no heaters or air conditioners in most Zimbabwean and South African homes
3. The people of Zimbabwe are beautiful
4. I can actually go to sleep in a spider-infested bed . . . but not until I'm past exhausted
5. The laugh of a starving orphan is one of the sweetest sounds in the world
6. Orange Fanta is my friend in a dry and weary land, but incomparably so compared to Jesus
7. Lynn Leverett thinks God has made only one mistake: warthogs
8. I had many friends in this part of the world that I simply hadn't met yet
9. The seeds from Zimbabwe's indigenous popping masasa trees sting like the dickens when they hit you
10. I cannot pronounce Mhlanga (Washington & Alice's surname) correctly, no matter how hard I try
11. I can use a pit toilet proficiently
12. I don't like pit toilets
13. You can get more people in a truck than you think
14. There are perfect songs, and then there are PERFECT songs (thanks, Saint Doyle) :)
15. I love Indian cuisine, but will always pass up the squid when they're pointing at me
16. There's a calm little outdoor cafe on the mountainside overlooking the ocean, Cape Town, and the mountains beyond
17. Missionary grandmothers are some of the bravest and most sacrificial women in the world
18. Hope is an anchor for the soul and prayer is the chain that keeps it connected
19. When they talk about taxi wars in Cape Town--that is, between competing taxi companies--they mean the actual shooting kind
20. I've been in Africa long enough that when I read a headline that says "10 Nasty Money Habits," I think it says "10 Nasty Monkey Habits"
21. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Can't wait to get home, see my family and other loved ones, and process all of the wonderful, heartbreaking, soul reviving experiences God's given me.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Though the morning started off rainy, we enjoyed a good bit of sunshine today, as well as some moody clouds and mist throughout. We drove to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The cape was first spotted by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias in 1488 and named the Cape of Storms. Headed directly out to Cape Point--the symbolic convergence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, though in truth, they merge farther southeast. Lots of baboons along the roadside as well as ostriches and some sort of antelope which we thought were blazebok, but after some reading, I'm not so sure. Hardly makes any difference to you, does it?
Lynn and I rode the Flying Dutchman Funicular up to the lighthouse, snapping photos and watching another whale before joining the others at Two Oceans Restaurant for hake and chips, which, for those of us who speak plain English, is a type of fish and fries. Excellent late lunch.
Back down the mountain to wind along the ocean road past windsurfers and the seaside village of Kommetjie (pronounced comma-key), up and over Chapman's Peak as the sun sank low on the western horizon, around Hout Bay where the houses hug the shoreline, past a series of mountain peaks called the Twelve Apostles, along Victoria Drive to ritzy-glitzy Camps Bay, and finally to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront--a "shopping and entertainment complex within a working harbour." Shared tea and coffee and scones and a mound of chocolate cake at the Mugg & Bean, a popular South African coffee house/restaurant.
They say this is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I must confess, they've got a good thing going. Stunning scenery all day.
Didn't get home until 9:30 and now it's almost midnight so I must sign off. Trying to email my family, but am having trouble sending from hotmail and the Swartzes have taken their email password to bed. Don't give up on me.
Love you all. Eager to be home. Really.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I see that some of my posts never made it out of Zimbabwe. There were a couple of days at least when all email/Internet servers were shut down because Zimbabwe had not paid their bills. There were also some days in which we simply didn't have access to an online computer. And then there's always a chance I wrote something that innocently triggered the strict government filters and prevented my emails going through. They do that there, and tap phone lines. No telling.
In Zvishavane, Lynn spoke to some 300 high school students who warmly received his message before he spent the morning with the leaders of several area congregations. Paula, Alice, and I had time with the preachers' young wives. I'll tell you, at the core we are all the same.
Afterward, they served us lunch--sadza, kale, and capenta, which are, in essence, minnows. A whole pile of them on our plates, full-bodied with their siteless eyes. I have to confess I bit off the body and left the heads and could not finish my plateful, but they are always willing to finish off what you leave. They were going to seat us inside around a small table in a small room while they ate outside by their cooking fire. I asked the ladies if we could sit outside with them. They were confused, because this is how they honor guests. "You don't want to eat here?" they asked.
"We want to eat with you," I replied.
They shrugged. "Okay."
So they proceeded to move everything outside--the table, low chairs, our dishes--and then they ate on the ground around the corner from us! Must have thought we were crazy.
After two days in Zvishavane, we made the 6-hour drive to Mutare to stay with Campion Mugweni and his family. Thanksgiving must come on September 20th in Zimbabwe, for after Wednesday service with some 450 people of the Sakubva church and rousing worship led by 82-year-old Freddie, Campion's wife treated us and several others to a grand feast. Two sons of one of the elders are composers, and in English they harmonized a beautiful song they'd written so that cried. At the core we are all the same.
On Thursday we divided up and talked about abstinence and faith with the young men and women at the Commercial College--an outreach of the financially destitute, but spiritually rich, Sakubva church. Wonderful interactions there, and as I said in a later post, 8 or 9 young men and women were baptized afterward.
From there we went to the Tsvingwe feeding center in nearby Penhalonga. I spent most of my time alongside the preacher's wife, gracious Chipo, whose name means "gift" or "talent." She showed me her 20 hens she keeps in one of the small rooms off the meeting room, translated for me, and graciously answered my many questions. Tsvingwe feeds 150 children 6 days a week. As is the custom, when I greeted an older man there, I asked, "How are you?" which I admit seems a silly formality considering their obvious condition. He spoke rough English, and responded, "I'm fine. How are you?" Once I'd replied, he corrected himself. "No, we are not fine." He motioned to the children swarming the yard. "We are hungry. We have no jobs. Our young people finish school, but there are no jobs. We are not fine, and we cannot say we are."
Soon 11-year-old Joseph approached me and spoke through Chipo. He impressed me with his artist's passion and his boldness, for most of the children were timid around us. I believe it was his passion that emboldened him, in fact. "I'm an artist," he said in Shona. "I need paper and pencils." Oh, the earnestness in his eyes. I couldn't provide the money or promises unless I wanted to cause great division among the children, so I asked Chipo to write down his name and his request. Then I asked Joseph to draw a picture in my notebook so that I could show my artist friends. "I can draw anything you see," he assured me. He took the paper and pen and sketched one of the men eating sadza on a nearby bench. A very good rendition, I might add. I'm hoping some of you artists out there will want to help him. We can send funds to Campion so that he can purchase what the boy needs.
These people--every single one of them--are real, and we are all the same at the core. God forgive us when we forget that.
Time to leave to meet with a house church here in Cape Town. May God bless your time in worship and fellowship with the saints wherever you are.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
We are well, and glad to be done with the rough travel we've experienced over the past week. But how sweet was the reward at the end of those dusty roads.
Must mention that 8 or 9 students were baptized yesterday from the Commercial College. We also enjoyed watching the distribution of mealy-meal (sadza) to the widows and needy at the Sakubva church. The women danced and ululated to express their joy at receiving this gift from the Southwest church. Some of them really put on a show for us--there was much laughing and hooting to go along.
Met Alvaro's brother, Chris, last night. They joined us at W & A's home. Nice visit; he seems much like Alvaro.
Must go. Much love, Caron
Sunday, September 17, 2006
A beautiful young woman named Pamela told us a wonderful story. A few months ago she and her husband and children had been starving and homeless. They had very little to eat, and no mealy-meal, the staple of Zimbabwe also known as sadza. Pamela had lost several pounds. They decided to fast 1/2 of every day for a week. Really fast--praying instead of complaining or worrying. On the last day they had not one morsel of food to eat. Pamela knows the Scriptures well, and knew that if God could feed the birds of the air, he could feed her family. The next morning was Sunday. She arose, built a fire, and boiled water--all without any food, mind you.
Then someone came to her. "Go to the church," they said. "There is mealy-meal there."
Brothers and sisters, God provided that food through the Southwest church! He saved that family and answered their prayers long before they lost everything. And through your generosity we have also begun to help a few of the very many who need assistance. School tuition for a deaf-mute girl to board in Harare. Medicine for epileptics and asthmatics and a man with meningitis. Glasses for a legally blind brother and sister. A thatched roof for a widow who lost her home in a fire. There are many more needs and many people still to meet, but God-willing, we will continue to be faithful with the funds some of you have provided.
This afternoon, we were blessed with a much-needed time of refreshing. The Leveretts, Alice, and I were treated to a ride through the game park. Washington went in search of fuel for our vehicle. While on the ride through the park, we saw elephants, warthogs, hippos, giraffes, blazeboks, elands, sable, zebras, sesseby, waterbucks, enclosed lions and hyenaes (it is a populated area, after all) and black rhinos. Imire Game Park is a black rhino conservatory. Behind our thatched cottages (and outside the fence) we've seen a small herd of wildebeasts, ostriches, and sessebys on more than one occassion. Truly awesome.
I must close now. I don't know when I'll be able to write next--we'll be heading off to another location tomorrow. We may be unable to communicate, however I will do so if the Lord wills. Many blessings and much love. We miss you.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
We went on to Gumbonzvanda--trust me, I can write these names but not pronounce them--where Lynn spoke again. The congregation asked us to eat a meal with them afterward in order to seal our friendship, so we sat for perhaps an hour and a half while the women killed and fried the chickens and cooked the sadza and kale for a tasty, although heavy-on-the-sadza meal. We three Americans were honored with forks. Everyone else ate with their fingers as is the custom.
Leaving that place, we took a winding, sandy shortcut through the brush to arrive at the Makwarimba church which meets at a school. There were well over 100 people crowded into a small classroom. This is a church the Leveretts visited three years ago; it's much bigger now, plus a small sister congregation was there to join us.
Though we hoped to be some encouragement to the brothers and sisters in this land, we have continually been refreshed by their perseverance and faith.
And now my note for the women: some of you will be curious to know just how things are here, really. It is much like camping, only better. Yes, there are bugs, a tremendous spider near the roof of my thatched cottage that I pretend is not there, and every now and then the electricity goes off. We've used the pit toilets a few times, snuck our hand sanitizer after greeting the brethren, and avoided certain water. But I've bathed every day, used the hairdryer (the curling iron gave up the ghost--the converter was too much for it), and enjoyed more food than I can eat. I have at all times felt safe, though to be sure, that is because of our great God. Yes, the Lord is my seatbelt, and though I must occassionally hold on to keep from bouncing into the front seat, I have not feared the cattle, goats, potholes, slow moving trucks, pedestrians, oncoming traffic, or ox-carts that hug our lane. Which is on the left side of the road, by the way. If there's more than one lane at all.
This is a land of beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and a beautiful spirit. Every bit of it is fascinating to me--from the eucalyptus gum trees and flat-topped acacias, to the monkeys darting across the road, to the precious dark-eyed children outrunning our vehicle over rough terrain.
And now I'm very tired. Blessings to you. Thank you for your prayers. God is good.
Love and hugs, Caron
Friday, September 15, 2006
We went on to Magamba School. The children, poor things, stood facing the sun as their headmaster instructed while Lynn preached and goats wandered through the school yard carrying on in their noisy way. Cows grazed nearby under an almost cloudless sky, and a dog knawed at his rangy hindquarters. The headmaster invited us in afterward and spoke these gracious words: "It is our custom not to host our guests outside. You must bring your shadow (your presence) inside so that we will know you and the memory of you will stay with us. We are a small school--only 320 students, 14 teachers, 6 student teachers. We are poor as you can see, but we are proud of our school. We want you to know that you are always welcome. We need your words of spiritual and moral encouragement--they are the hope of our people."
From there we drove many, many miles (1-1.5 hours) over dirt roads farther into the countryside than the Leverettts had previously travelled. Past huts and ox-plowed fields and stick fences and mountains and avacado and wild orange trees. We arrived late, finding the 4-month-old Chigondo church waiting for us under a tree. A flat metal post between two rocks served as our seat because we were guests; others sat in the dirt or on rocks. An elderly Christian man we had picked up to travel in the back of the pickup led the singing and spoke words of encouragement to the people before and after Lynn's message. A young man showed me a very good, almost life-size statue of himself that he'd carved and I snapped a photo of him beside it. Three women decided to place their hope in Christ, confessed him as Lord, and were entrusted to one of the brothers for baptism. To my sorrow, we could not stay to witness it--we had to go on to another church; they had to walk into the mountains to find a stream.
Our truck struggled down an ox-path to take us to the St. Clements church an hour or so away. When we finally arrived--very late--the women stood by their huts at the end of a narrow foot path through the grass, singing us in like angels welcoming us home to heaven. The men wanted them to come sit under the trees near our truck, but I couldn't wait to greet these sisters of mine. I felt so joyful that I scurried down the path, my arms opened wide. We greeted with hugs and laughter, like long-lost friends. I know the Spirit of God is among them and He delighted my soul in their company. Again Lynn spoke and the old man lifted our hearts--and their voices--in Shona praise. Three more came to express their faith and request baptism.
Too soon, we made our way back through the rugged creek-bed-of-a-road and on to the Maruta church. There are many widows there, and they pleaded for our help. Brother Godwin will collect all requests so that we can prayerfully discern where and how to spend our Lord's money. Two little girls sat near me while Lynn preached and could not seem to take their eyes from me--no shyness in them; they met my gaze measure for measure. Afterward I hugged them and spoke to them and asked to take our picture together. Another six girls hurried to our side to be included before the photo was taken.
So, this is what it's like, I said to God. Later, when I am not on a borrowed computer, I will take time to better express my heart. But this feeling I have is what it's like to meet a people who suffer greatly, who put their faith and hope in God, who will accept us gladly as their brothers and sisters in Christ, who yearn to know more of our Lord, who walk miles and miles to share the gospel or receive it. I thank the Father for showing me these things and for filling my heart to overflowing.
Continue your prayers. God has been with us in mighty ways that I will be able to share when I return home.
Love and thumbs up, Caron [it will make more sense later :)
We began at Rukweza after a 2-3 hour drive. There is a church and a feeding center where a graceful and gracious young woman named Loveness oversees the 6-days of feeding each week. They fed 117 orphans today, plus a man in a wheelchair whom Alvaro taught to repair shoes. The children and women surrounded our vehicle when we arrived, each one shaking or touching our hands. I could not hide the tears behind my sunglasses, though I tried. After their lunch--we were given a plate of rice and sadza (a thick, flavorless porridge of cornmeal) and a small piece of chicken after all the children had eaten--the little ones sang for us and put on a short humorous play about the importance of education. Apparently, if we make failing grades, we will all end up dead on the side of the road! :)
After Rukweza, we went to Dorowa where I met Assan and his family. Assan began a church under a tree after he became a Christian about 6 years ago and has started a number of other churches since. Assan traveled with us to Wedza to stay with Godwin and his family for a few days.
Godwin has arranged for 11 or 14 or 15 churches (I can't remember which number I heard) to gather in their respective locations in the vicinity so that Lynn can preach to them over the next 3 days. I think Lynn will speak 5 or 6 times tomorrow.
We are now at the beautiful Imire Game Park near Wedza. Getting in was a small adventure because they thought we were to arrive this morning, so they had long since given up on us and closed the gates. The roads are pitch black in the countryside, we had no cell service, and had forgotten the phone number anyway. We honked ineffectively a few times, but the Lord knew our need and sent a young employee peddling along the road on a bicycle. He managed to get us in, and we soon found our cottages--African style thatched huts. We just finished a delicious dinner of Chakalaka soup (spicy!), sweet and sour chicken, and a delicious pudding with authentic rich cream. I was delighted when they said I could email from here. We will be here through Sunday night, Lord willing, so I hope to continue posting. I'm looking forward to seeing the park and it's animals in the daylight--and rather glad I couldn't see them in the dark!
I must tell you this brief story--not a tear-jerker, but one that made us laugh for some time. As we were driving to Wedza in the setting sun, many school children walking miles to their homes for the night, waving often to those who were glad to see a passing vehicle, one little boy turned and excitedly yelled something in Shona at the top of his lungs. Washington, Alice, and Assan laughed heartily.
"Could you understand him?" I asked.
"What did he say?"
She looked at Assan next to her then back at me. "White people!" :)
Much love, joy, and peace to you as we are experiencing it here, Caron
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Because we were bringing many Bibles and World Bible School materials with us to give away, we were concerned about delays. I was waiting in line for my visa while Paula and Lynn were paying for their's, when a young airport employee approached me. "Are you Caron?" he asked, pointing to the WBS name badge Paula had made for me.
"Yes," I replied.
"And you are with World Bible School?"
He smiled and pointed to his chest. "I am a member of World Bible School!"
I sent him to Paula, knowing she'd want to visit with him. By the time I got my visa, they had our bags, he'd waived us through customs, and Paula had 3 new WBS students--our baggage handlers! Praise God for answering our and your prayers in such a delightful manner.
Alice and Washington, our guides, are a wonderful couple. We slept comfortably in their sprawling, gated home. We bathed in very cool, very shallow baths, but our hair dryers worked, so Paula and I were happy. :) I even got to phone Bob and talk to Caleb, too. This morning we repacked for our trip throughout eastern Zimbabwe, registered at the embassy, and are now at the Avondale church of Christ and World Bible School offices.
We waited for W & A outside the embassy while they ran an errand. We sat across from a park, and I enjoyed snapping a few photos of the flowering vines and beautiful people. Since we've been at the church, the Leveretts have been reunited with a number of old friends--even as I am making new ones. Timothy--the young man many of us prayed for and helped travel to South Africa for heart surgery a few years ago--is here now, visiting with them. He is doing so well. His mother also stopped by, as has Si, a woman who helped start churches near Wedza. It is a good day.
Tomorrow we head to Wedza (Hwedza) via the Rukweza feeding center in Rusape. At least that's what Alice tells me. :) She knows everything.
I feel so blessed and am fascinated by everything, making lots of journal entries, and enjoying meeting the good people of this country.
Love you all! I will post as I can.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
We are at the home of Al & Donna Horn, African missionaries for nearly fifty years. Al is a native South African. They graciously picked us up from the airport and have provided lunch and lively conversation during our seven hour layover. We will return to the airport soon for our flight into Zimbabwe.
Our plane circled Dakar, Senegal for nearly 45 minutes last night before we could land to refuel. The problem? According to the pilot there were three: Dakar airport has no radar, there was a bit of a "traffic jam," and there was a "comedy of errors" on the ground. We were very thankful for your prayers! Another interesting note: in DC and in Dakar, the cabin of the airplane was "sprayed." Yes, sprayed with a strong smelling aerosol as required by the World Health Organization. Pesticides. No kidding.
I have to admit the computer screen seems to be swaying. We're pretty worn out and have been moving for so long I have that roadtrip syndrom--I feel like I'm still moving. One more 2-hour flight to go!
We love you all. Hugs to our families. More later as we get email access.
God is hearing your prayers and surrounding us with your love and His!
Lynn and Paula arrived in Washington around mid-night on the 10th after visiting family in Abilene and Dallas. They rendezvoued with Caron at breakfast before heading to the airport.
The plane took off on time and was not very full according to Caron. She called me from the plane and was excited that the seat next to her was empty. I guess if I was flying for 20+ hours I would be excited about the seat being empty too. They should land in Johannesburg for re-fueling and a 7 hour layover before heading on to Zimbabwe. They should arrive around 9 P.M. local time in Harare. Please pray that they will get through customs fairly quickly. Last February Justin Nash was in line for 4 hours just to get his entry visa.
I'm not as good at blogging as Caron; she asked if I would share this information since she didn't have internet access before leaving to the airport yesterday. I'll try to keep the news flowing as I hear what's going on.
May God bless you, and your's.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
There's nothing but closed office buildings, trees, and a lone Burger King outside the hotel. Fortunately, I'm fine with a cheeseburger and fries. Now I'm just relaxing, waiting for the Leveretts, and already missing my family. Exciting, huh?
Keep those prayers going!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
I'm a little keyed up, I think. Just cleaned the bathroom. :) It was either the search for my missing credit card that got me going--which I didn't find, by the way--or the first two episodes of Lost, Season 2 that I watched with my guys.
That said, I really do feel God's peace and presence and am eager to head off on this journey. Thank you for your continued prayers. The Father is responding.
Please pray for the Leveretts. One of their flights tomorrow has been cancelled, so they're going to be delayed getting into DC. While I arrive mid-afternoon, they won't get in until after 11 pm.
But all is well.
Many blessings, Caron
Sunday, September 03, 2006
I thought you might want to know some of the specific prayer requests that the Leveretts and I shared to help guide your prayers as well.
Paula asks that God ease her back pain during our travels and that the Lord be with Alice, our guide, who has high blood pressure. The trip will be very rigorous. She also asks that God will allow us to accomplish what we need to in our short time there and that we will trust him when unexpected things come up.
Lynn asks that we be granted wisdom in every situation so that we might meet the needs of the people and build up the body of Christ. It breaks his heart to have to walk away knowing people are still suffering.
I ask that I might not be undone by what I see, and that God will give me a holy gift to write the stories he would have me tell on behalf of the Zimbabwean people.
Please pray for our families, too. We are so thankful for their love. I am humbled and grateful that Bob and my children are so supportive of this endeavor. Praise God.
Mark and Flora Swartz, of Cape Town and the Vinyard inner city mission, were at Southwest today. We were blessed and excited to hear of that effective incarnational work. God is doing amazing things there. We enjoyed lunch with the Swartzes—I fell in love with Flora—and we look forward to staying with them in their home later this month, Lord willing.
The journey begins in one week.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
My friend—who’s given me permission to share her story—formerly sold real estate. She and her husband work hard in their own business now. Though the Lord has blessed them, like most of us, they have those things that come up on a regular basis that stretch their budget to the limit. From time to time she receives calls from people wanting to sell or buy homes. She refers them to another agent who provides her with a cut of the commission.
This summer her heart was pricked by what God was doing through Alvaro Dos Santos’s passion for feeding orphans and widows in Africa. In July she received my email asking for prayers concerning my trip and explaining that I was counting on God to raise the money if it was his timing and will that I go. She thought and prayed about what she could do to help, finally deciding that if she got another real estate referral, she’d devote that money to funding my journey.
It was an easy decision until she got a referral within the week. In fact, she informed me immediately so she “wouldn’t allow Satan” to change her mind. She estimated she might be paid four or five hundred dollars and asked me to pray the house would sell quickly.
Satan would indeed make it tough for her. The next day, she was in a car wreck. No injuries, but the deductible would be—you guessed it—five hundred dollars. She wrestled with her decision, hoping I’d understand if she had to use the money. I did understand, and gave her my blessing to do so. But the following day she called me: She would to be faithful to her promise to God and trust him in these circumstances.
The house was under contract by mid-August. The agent expected it to close Thursday, August 31st. The sellers were going to live with a relative for a while, taking their time to find the right new home.
This sister wrote yesterday to ask how much of the money I actually needed. To be honest, I struggled with what to say. I wanted her to experience God’s freedom in this matter. My travel expenses and immunizations were covered; God had provided sufficient funds. But there were other considerations greater than my own. So, I told her how the economy is so unsettled in Zimbabwe that our expenses in country have soared in keeping with the hyperinflation the citizens are experiencing there. That whatever gift she offered would be timely and not in excess of our needs. That it is important to the Leveretts and me that our visit does not create a financial or physical burden for any of the Zimbabwean Christians. Though most of them are destitute, they would give out of their poverty to provide for us, and we do not want that to be the case.
I told her that Paula asked me to bring in cash whatever money remains after my expenses have been reimbursed. That Paula said—and Justin Nash told me, too—we will be surrounded by people with incredible need, and that with God's discernment and wisdom, we will (He will) be able to provide medicine, treatment, or financial assistance to those who think there is no hope. That Justin told me how at every location, Alvaro picked out the person with the worst health problem—they were usually outcast because of it—honored them before the people, then paid for their medical care.
She replied, “Thank you for answering my question so perfectly. I will give you all that I get and I cannot wait to hear where God puts that money in Africa, whose lives it touches and how.”
A few hours later she phoned. She’d picked up the check, but it wasn’t what she had anticipated. It was more. Much more. A total of eighteen hundred dollars. God had not only sold the home in a matter of weeks, he’d helped the sellers find a new home they loved. God’s abundance and the joy in her voice made me tremble before our perfect and refining and faithful Heavenly Father.
I thank God for my friends—for all of you who teach me so much through your journeys of faith. Because of your faith, many of you have provided generously to me on behalf of the innocent ones in Zimbabwe. Because of your faith, others of you provide elsewhere. And because of your faith, you offer your prayers, the sweetest and most valuable gift of all.
I love you.
Friday, September 01, 2006
I love my hammock, a mother's day gift a few years ago. I interrupted Bob's puttering and told him I'd be waiting there for him. Then I slipped outside, settled myself on the wide, gently rocking bed, and looked up into the clearest blue sky I'd seen in weeks. The air, soft from recent rains, felt like silk on my arms; the sun, like a warm hug. Bob came out, tipping the hammock as he situated himself. It takes talent getting two people on and off the thing. We talked for a few minutes. Then we dozed.
I hang out on the hammock a lot, but not nearly enough lately. My philosophy is that every home should have one, and that all of us should spend more time on them. I snuggle with my kids there, pray there, figure out storylines there, and take lots and lots of catnaps there. In fact, I love dashing to the hammock in search of God and his solace and finding it through prayer and ten minutes of weightless sleep.
I'm ashamed to admit I've been consumed with the Zimbabwe trip as if my Father doesn't have every detail under control. Yes, I've met with folks and worked on Line of Departure stuff and helped my boy with his homework and watched movies and read the Word and done laundry and run errands and written on my new novel, but my thoughts always go back to this upcoming journey. I've spent too many hours in the last few weeks wondering how I'll handle it all and whether I'm packing too much or not enough.
But today, on the hammock, I found freedom from Zimbabwe and everything else, my head cushioned by my husband's strong arm, tensions soothed by the sun, spirit lulled by the sound of trees rustling in the breeze, thinking about nothing. Just enjoying God's blessings. My friend Jerome calls it soulspace. Having space in our life for God to push past the clutter and into our hearts.
And he did.
Monday, August 28, 2006
At the risk of thinking too much, which my stepsister Angela has rightly accused me of doing in the past, I'm attempting to be transparent by telling you I've struggled with this silly concern: that I will cry the whole time I'm in Zimbabwe.
Alvaro wrote: "Whatever you see, whatever you touch, its Gods desire that you do it. Don't be afraid of anything because God will be there right at your side. We are very happy that you will be able to see the children and we do not have any feeding centers.....God has the feeding centers! So whatever you do you will be fulfilling God's desire for people to hear the testimony of the children's suffering. We were entrusted with these centers...to serve and to be a steward unto them. We really appreciate your desire to know more about these children. Our hearts Blessings and love will be with you all the way. You will only be getting a taste of what Our Lord is doing. When you see the suffering....don't feel weak...be strong. The Lord needs you to be strong for them."
I know that when I am weak, I must rely more on God's strength, and that's a good thing (2 Cor. 12:9-10). But for Pete's sake, how will I be able to do what I'm there to do hiding behind a tissue the entire time? That's been my fear--that I won't be strong. I do ask your prayers in this matter, but I want to share what the Lord has impressed upon my heart this weekend.
I've been reading Oswald Chambers's My Utmost For His Highest along with my good friend Diana who serves with her husband in Athens. We enjoy discussing Chambers's thoughts by email, along with many other mysteries of faith and womanhood. On Saturday the excerpt dealt with John 14:27--"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
Now, I've banked on that one for years. And I'm certain many, many folks have already drawn the conclusion I came to, but it struck me in a fresh and timely way: I wondered for a moment if Jesus wasn't a little unfair here, telling his disciples not to be troubled or afraid. Their world was about to fall apart. At least as far as they would be able to see. They didn't know what the end result of the cross would be; they didn't understand the enormous eternal shift that was going to take place in their midst. They couldn't comprehend how God was in complete control even when it appeared all hope was lost. And that's when I got it (again): we don't have to comprehend it all, either. We can just believe. We can have peace knowing that no matter what we see, no matter how things appear, hope is not lost. God is always at work on behalf of his beloved. It's okay to cry, but we don't have to be undone by the suffering or situations around us because God holds each of us under His wing. And He has plans . . .
I've added a link to Justin Nash's photos taken with Alvaro last February and to the sites of some other friends and special places. If you feel clueless about my upcoming trip and want more details about my role and how these things came about, just email me.
Besides, I'd love to hear about your journey.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
So, here's the latest: I leave September 10th and return September 29th. Praise God I'm flying the international portion not only on the same flight as my companions, Paula and Lynn, but seated in front of them. I have my airline tickets, immunizations, a bag of travel goodies from my prayer sisters Carla and Jobie, a converter, and a few thrift shop finds I can wear and leave in Zimbabwe. I also have antimalarial medicine on my bathroom countertop, a suitcase full of World Bible School materials, a promise from my SW brother Doyle Corder to fill an MP3 player with "perfect songs" at my request, four new notebooks for writing, and a very understanding husband.
Bob has been terrific about my recent scattered thought patterns. Getting ready for a trip like this is a challenge; getting ready to leave your "post" for three weeks will threaten to send you to the edge and back. You moms know what I'm talking about.
Once in Africa, the Leveretts and I will be traveling with Washington and Alice, a Zimbabwean Christian couple who will drive and translate for us. We'll spend a couple of nights in the capital city of Harare, where W & A live, then head off to visit churches and feeding centers near Wedza and Mutare. During part of our time, we will be staying at game lodges because they are safer than other accomodations might be. We will also stay in the home of brother Campion. Adjustments have been made to the schedule to allow me to visit some of the feeding centers Alvaro Dos Santos operates, though, of course, Alvaro is in the USA at present. Honestly, I'm in a fog about most of our itinerary--the people and places are so unfamiliar that I am entrusting everything to the Lord and praising him that Alice, Paula, and Campion have things taken care of.
We're not quite sure what conditions to expect. I've emailed before about the state of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. Fuel, electricity, etc., are hard to come by. We understand candles are in order a number of hours each day. The weather should be moderate this time of year--Zimbabwe is just coming out of winter.
About two weeks into the trip, we will fly to Cape Town, South Africa where we will spend 5 days visiting with missionaries and with Roger and Martha Dickson of International Christian Press. Then home.
I solicit your prayers; I know many of you have been praying already. Some of you have contributed generously to this trip, and I am humbled. In whatever way you are joining me on this journey, I thank you and praise God for you.
But as for everyone else, it's really just one journey: Life.
I love this journey I'm on. I love that it's all wrapped up in knowing Christ. I love that despite the times of pain, heartbreak, sacrifice, disillusionment, faltering, and frustration, God is enough. A million times more than enough.
Thank you for sharing your life with me. I'm glad we're on this journey together.