Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pictures of Joseph

Hey, friends. Thought you might like to see a couple of photos of Joseph, mentioned in my "Dreaming" post below. If you haven't read it yet, check it out and let me know what thoughts it prompts in you. The photos have been inserted into the post, so just scroll down.

:) Caron

Saturday, January 27, 2007


One of the most impacting experiences of my trip to Zimbabwe last September was meeting a boy named Joseph at the Tsvingwe orphan feeding center. I stood slightly apart from the children crowding the area, talking to a gracious young woman named Chipo who helps run the feeding station, when 11-year-old Joseph approached. I expected him to speak to Chipo, so I was surpised when he looked me straight in the eyes and spoke in Shona with boldness and passion, never blinking, showing no fear or timidity as most of the children did--just deep yearning.

"I am an artist," he told me through Chipo's translation. "I need paper and pencils. Can you help me?"

I looked at the boy, his eyes dark and determined. I've hardly seen such a look. It gave me chills. And made me want to hand him all my pens and spirals and whatever money I had on me.

But I couldn't. There were 150 children there that day. I couldn't provide what each one wanted. I couldn't create the strife that singling one child out in front of all others would do in this desperate and impoverished region.

I met his gaze as Chipo translated for me. "I have friends who are artists," I said. "I will tell them about you, Joseph. Perhaps one of them can help."

He nodded solemnly.

I felt like I'd given him little hope. "Would you help me?" I asked. "Would you draw something for my friends using my paper and pen? That way, I can show them you are truly an artist."

His eyes lit up, and he spoke rapidly. Chipo hurried to translate. "What do you want me to draw?" He motioned with his arm. "I can draw anything you see."

"You decide," I told him.

He took the paper and pen, sat on the ground, and sketched one of the men eating sadza on a nearby bench. A very good rendition, I might add. His oversized, hand-me-down coat and frayed tennis shoes seemed irrelevant in that moment as I watched the artist work. The other children swarmed him, pushing and shoving each other and him, curious to know what he and I were doing together. In fact, he started drawing a second man--I suspect he hardly paid attention to the chaos around him--but I stopped him, concerned the other children would soon be out of control.

Joseph’s drawing is still in my notebook. A friend of mine--an art teacher at a local school--has recently gathered some extra supplies for Joseph. It will take months before the package will reach him. It’s been months already, so I will send money ahead for a few supplies to be purchased locally.

I tell you this because I can’t think of Joseph without tears gathering in my eyes. Because when I saw that box of art supplies, I wanted to cry. I certainly praised God.

I think Joseph touches my heart because he dares to dream in a place where dreaming is impractical. Because he yearns to create in a time when priority is placed on simply surviving. Because he probably suspects his request has been forgotten by me and by God, though it hasn’t.

So often, we dream and wait and get discouraged and give up before God has orchestrated all that is necessary to give birth to our hopes. Or we become intimidated and unsure of our ability to reach our goals, so we back off. We quit dreaming. Quit trying. Quit growing toward them.

I spoke to a young woman just the other day who shared her adventuresome and purposeful dreams with me. Dreams that made my own heart soar with the possibilities. “Sometimes though,” she finished, “I think my dreams will never happen.”

But I believe that the right and holy things we long for are planted in us by God. That we must never give up striving to be ready for what he wants to express to the world through us. Beauty. Mission. Adventure. Sacrifice. Wisdom. Love. Laughter. Life.

The words below came to me third-hand. But they’re first-rate, and so I want to pass them along. My heart skips a beat when I read them.

RISK more than others think is safe.

CARE more than others think is wise.

DREAM more than others think is practical.

EXPECT more than others think is possible.

Let's journey on together, entrusting our hopes and longings to the Father of heaven and earth. Let us not be afraid or discouraged. Let's dream. And let's see what he will do in unexpected ways at unexpected times.

He's like that, you know.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


By nature, I am a fearful person. For instance, years ago I sat up crying most of one night when my husband was off somewhere for military training because I thought I heard someone in the back of the house. I wouldn’t leave the bedroom to go check, call the police, or evacuate the house. I just sat there terrified and paralyzed, imagining all sorts of horrible endings to that night. In those days I often operated—or failed to operate—out of fear.

Do you remember the Star Wars spoof, Space Balls? (My daughter tells me this is wrong--it's not Space Balls, but Austin Powers. However, I've not seen Austin Powers, so I must have seen a clip of this somewhere.) There’s a scene where a steam roller is heading toward one of the minor characters. The man stands screaming in terror for ages while the machine creeps forward and eventually flattens him. When I think back to some of my less-than-shining moments, I realize I was a lot like that silly character who could have controlled the panic and simply taken five steps to safety.

The Spirit has really done some work on me, praise God, though from time to time my initial impulse is to react in fear.

I often encounter people who are reacting in fear to some aspect of life. I recognize this sort of thing when I see it, mind you. And two things stand out.

First of all, it seems to me that the greatest fear most people have is that of being truly known (paradoxically, it is also our greatest desire). We plaster on a smile or a sweet tone or stay incredibly busy or talk the religious talk in an effort to hide how we’re really feeling or what we’re really struggling with. We’re simply terrified that people will judge us and reject us. (See my October posts “Facing the Truth,” “Funny, isn’t it . . . ,” and “God is Enough” for related thoughts on this topic.)

Secondly, I’ve intentionally used the phrase “react in fear” rather than “act in fear” because that’s what we fearful types do. When we let fear overwhelm us, we don’t take positive, strong action. We react in anger, weakness, or temporary insanity. We let whatever we’re afraid of control us.

In recent years it has become very important to me to live fearlessly. Not because I want to be strong, but because I want to live like I believe God is strong. And if I believe he is—if I believe he is all-powerful, and all-good, and all-loving—then I cannot be fearful. Fear and belief do not go hand-in-hand.

It’s true that sometimes people do judge and reject us when they know our deepest heart or darkest secrets. And sometimes what we fear does, in fact, come to pass. But shrugging off the bonds of fear is one of the most liberating, life-giving experiences available to us.

I will be praying today that you release your grip on fear, whatever you fear.

By the Spirit, I am not a fearful person.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Through the years I have consistently been described by others as calm or peaceful.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to a relatively new friend saying, “I wonder sometimes if you think I'm only content when experiencing personal chaos, but the truth is that our friendship germinated during a period of my life that is best characterized as extreme spiritual upheaval.”

This made my friend laugh, which tells me I wasn’t far off the mark.

Of course, I do enjoy a deep and abiding peace in Christ, but His Spirit has been stirring my soul in ways that are neither calm nor peaceful. And I’m profoundly grateful. I don’t want to make it sound like everything previous was a waste—God has always been molding and shaping me, I’ve long recognized His call on my life, and have focused on knowing Him for years—but this thing He’s been doing in me these past four or five years has been . . . well, like a rebirth.

Messy, to be sure.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “Before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him . . . He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide—for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives.”

Admittedly, my crisis has been longer than a “moment”—a lengthy wrestling with my own concept of God, self, ministry, community, faith, sacrifice. But it’s been intense. Refreshingly intense. I can only say that now, though, when I’m finally gaining a little perspective on it.

What about you? What kind of crisis or chaos has God brought into your life? And how are you managing in the midst of it? If you’re like me, most days you probably feel like you’re barely hanging on. But as long as you’re hanging on to Him, you’re exactly where you need to be.

I imagine the chaos in my life is pretty much just getting started. That there's more He wants to do in and through me. You should see the smile on my face at that thought. Remind me of that later, okay?

Monday, January 01, 2007


I drove through the WalMart parking lot on my way to the tire and lube bays. I’d just hit the seek button on the radio when I heard some (I’m sure famous) Christian speaker on the radio quote another (I’m sure famous) Christian speaker. I lowered the volume and repeated the quote over and over in my head until I could park and write it down on a scrap of paper. I think I still got it wrong—WalMart parking lots are immensely distracting to me—but this is close:

“When I’m discouraged, God is shattering the idols of my heart so He can make room to move in there.” (I hope the probably-famous-Christian speaker will forgive me for not assigning proper credit.)

My first thought in reaction to this quote was, “Lord, just how many idols have I set up in place of you?” My second thought was, “Please finish the job and take possession of me!”

Consider this: we’re discouraged when life doesn’t turn out the way we want. When things don’t happen as we hope. When people disappoint us. Or hurt us. Or frustrate us. When agents and editors turn us down. Or friends turn their backs on us. When people misunderstand us. When we can’t be the superwoman (or man) we want everyone to think we are. When we don’t get the promotion or recognition or appreciation we feel we deserve. When God doesn’t answer our prayers or heal us or bail us out.

Or maybe that’s just me.

But think about this: if those things discourage me so easily—and they do—then I’ve set my hope on the object of my discouragement. Circumstances. Other people. Success. Praise. Myself. A “make-a-wish-god” instead of the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth.

I used to teach history and cultures and world religions. One of the most notable things to me about idol worship is how worshippers often make great sacrifices to the idol, yet receive nothing in return.

And I don’t want to live like that anymore, sacrificing my joy, time, relationships, and heart to idols that offer nothing in return. It’s powerless. Fruitless. Careless.

So, Lord, break the idols. Move in. Make me wholly Yours. And holy Yours.

Though I’m certain even then WalMart parking lots will be a challenge.