Tag Archives: community

Spirit rain down

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I wrote this a week ago, when rain was just a whispered hope and smoke hung thick in the air.  Today it is raining heavily.  Yet my heart prayer is still the same.

 

It seems the south is on fire.

We are at nearly 50 days without a drop of rain.  This is very abnormal, especially in autumn.  At last count there were over 50,000 acres in North Carolina alone consumed by wildfires.

It’s hard not to sense spiritual forces working when you experience weather and natural events that are so bizarre, so alien for this part of the country, especially when paired with the volatile election season we have endured.  Divine judgement?  Sin run amuck?  I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to presume I understand the workings of our omniscient and omnipotent, holy and just, merciful and loving God.  And sometimes crappy things happen because we live in a fallen and broken world managed by one who seeks to destroy.

Here’s where I’ve landed.  I have been crying to God for rain, for relief from the fires.  And every, every time I pray that prayer my heart responds by reminding me we need an outpouring of God more than we need a single drop of rain. We need the Spirit to fall upon us.  Our lives, our culture, our communities, our churches are dry and parched and wasting away.  We consume each other with words intended to wound, with violence and hatred and racism and selfishness. We trample the poor and oppressed and wounded and fatherless because we are too busy to care for them.  Because serving them would put our comfortable, safe, predictable, normal lives in jeopardy.  We villainize anyone who looks or lives or believes differently than us because hating them is a lot easier than wading through the swamp of things that keep us apart to show kindness or grace.

I know of so many people in the trenches, loving their neighbors in radical and un-glamorous ways.  Men and women and families who dive into the mess, who listen to the broken and lonely, who serve and serve and serve and count it all joy.  We need more of that. More people willing to say to God: whatever.  Whatever you say, Lord, I will do.  Wherever you lead, Jesus, I will go.

But more than more people serving – we need God’s Spirit poured out on us in a radical, life-changing, life-giving way.  Oh, Jesus, we need you.  May we recognize and confess our sins, both personal and corporate.  Oh, Spirit, change how we see and what we seek.  Break our hearts for what breaks Yours.

Rain down on us.

on going to Haiti

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For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  I Corinthians 3:9

 

So today I leave for Haiti.

I am joining eMi (Engineering Ministries International) for 10 days in Grand Goave, Haiti.  This is one of those rare times when God very clearly told me “Go!”  I hemmed and hawed and didn’t tell my husband for two days because I knew he would say yes.  While some adventures God reveals are invitations (this blog was one of those – saying no the the invitation would not have been disobedience but I would miss the opportunity to see and experience Him in new ways), this was an issue of obedience.  And I did not want to go.

I have wanted to join eMi on a project trip for several years but circumstances continually thwarted those attempts.  You would think I would be excited to finally be able to go.  Funny thing is, circumstances still provide numerous excuses for me to stay home.  A short time frame to prepare (five weeks!), the financial challenges of paying for the trip, leaving my little man for 10 days, health problems during this last week – all of these real challenges tell me this is ridiculous.  And if I’m really honest, Haiti is not at the top of my travel list.

I will be working with a team of engineers and architects to design a church and conference center for Haiti ARISE.  We will also be developing a master plan for a new parcel of land (which will include a goat farm.  Ha!  I doubt any of my architecture professors imagined the expertise they imparted to me being used on goats!).  I am the team architect, and I feel utterly unqualified to hold this role.  Between the obstacles to leave home, the intimidation I feel at being the team architect, and the challenges of Haiti itself, God has me so far out on a limb I can feel it bounce beneath me.

This is what happens when your word for the year is Brave.

Perhaps this kind of obedience strikes some as radical.  But, really, I had no choice but to say “yes.”  My obedience stems not from fear of consequences if I disobey or because I robotically must do what I am told.  But I love God so much, I am so humbled and grateful at all He has done for me, how can I say no?  How can I turn my back on this God who has saved me and transformed me and who walks so intimately with me through each day, no matter where that day leads me?

It is easy to think that we North Americans have all the answers, from the practical to the spiritual.  We feel so smart and privileged and enlightened – and as architects we are trained to be proud and arrogant.  But then I read the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians and Paul reminds me that, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”  The message of Jesus – the central reason for this trip – can seem so simple as to be foolish and insignificant in the face of daunting physical need or next to the expertise and knowledge our team possesses.  Yet it is all, all about Christ.  It is not about me or what I bring or even the building I design.  I want to come to the people of Haiti with the humility demonstrated by Paul, to have a heart filled with fear and trembling because of the weighty and glorious task that has been given me.  I want to “know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  This is what unites us across distance, cultural and language barriers, life experiences – we all love and serve the same God.  It is an honor and a priviledge to serve these brothers and sisters.  I am their servant these 10 days.  I do not come to fix their problems but to serve them so that they in turn might transform their community and country with Christ’s love.  

There is no way to prepare for the kind of poverty and need I will see.  My heart wants to erect defenses to protect itself from the onslaught of ache that I will experience.  To steel itself, to harden itself from the reality of the Haitian people so that I won’t have to face those difficult, messy emotions.  But I don’t want to spend the week detached and distant.  I want to consciously make my heart vulnerable to hear their stories, to see their poverty, to experience their joy in the midst of tragedy.  I want to love the people of Grand Goave without pretense, without expectations of return.  To see their beautiful, messy stories and then enter in.

an unexpected gift

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As a graduate student I attended a large church where I knew only a handful of people.  My studies were so demanding that I could do little more than show up on Sunday mornings.  There were many weeks when that felt like a tremendous accomplishment as I sat mentally and emotionally exhausted and sleep deprived in my seat, desperate for something to nourish my starved soul.  God graciously met me there, giving me huge doses of encouragement and peace and spiritual nourishment.  I came and sang and learned and met with God and left, often without speaking a word to anyone else.

But.

But I knew, even in the midst of that season, that this was not the way God wanted things to be long-term.  When the preachers spoke on the importance of community, of being connected with a smaller group of people within this large church, of intimately and intentionally sharing life with them, it resonated deep within me as true.  I knew that it was easy to slip in and out of church without really being a part of the church.  That you could smile and shake hands and make friends without ever taking off the mask to reveal your broken, bleeding, messy life.  

Y’all, community is hard and I am no good at it.  It takes work and determination, grit and grace, and this introvert is often exhausted by the prospect before I even begin.  But there are true benefits that make all the sweat and tears worth it.  And when you let other people know your story, even the ugly and messy parts, it can reveal unexpected beauty.

I love to sing, and a typically Sunday morning will find me singing with abandon regardless of how on or off tune I might be.  Sometimes, though, I stop and listen to the chorus rising around me.  I hear the varied voices blending together and it is beautiful and stirs my heart in thanksgiving to God.  And then I am reminded of the stories behind the voices and I am humbled:

            a dad of two young boys who is battling a degenerative disease
 
            a teenage girl fighting Lyme disease and all the complications that come with it
 
            couples teetering on the edge of divorce
 
            parents whose grown kids have rejected the faith they hold so dear
 
            the mama who is finding wholeness and life on the other side of a crippling depression
 
            a family one bill away from financial disaster
 
            the parents who buried their young child

 

These people singing with passion and sincerity to God in the midst of their pain is a beautiful thing.  When I know their story their act of worship takes on greater meaning and power because I know what it means for them to surrender to God in the middle of their suffering.  That when they tell God He is good and loving and wise it comes from a heart that knows what it is to break into thousands of pieces.  This, this is a testimony far greater than any sermon.  And when we stay on the fringes, when we keep each other at arms length, when we hold the story God is weaving from our tattered lives close to our chest we miss out on this unexpected gift.

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Garden

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This edition of Five Minute Friday is pretty special.  Lisa-Jo Baker is opening the door for us to join her in funding the Maubane Community Center in South Africa.  This community holds a special place in her heart – and now in mine as she has shared how her story and their story intertwine.  I am joining her in holding the door open.  Won’t you come in?

veggies from garden

GARDEN

The smell of freshly turned earth literally makes my heart beat a little faster.  It is a heady smell that means spring and new life and fresh food and beautiful flowers.  I garden because I love it.  I till the earth with my hands to bring the bounty of the earth to our table.  I day-dream of flowers because they add beauty and softness to our lives.  Certainly, the food is a welcome addition to our table, easing the strain on the grocery budget.  I enjoy knowing where our food came from and how it was raised.  The food tastes better when you’ve cared and raised it from a seedling.  But I do not have to plant and harvest.

Sisters half a world away, they have to garden.  It is often a matter of life and death, or at least a choice between sickness and health.  Mothers, wives, daughters, aunts carefully tuck seeds into the ground, praying for the food it will bring.  But what if they have no space of their own to grow their food?  What if they don’t know how to till the earth or water the tender shoots?  There are people standing ready to teach them.  A community water point has already been built.  Can we join with those mothers, wives, daughters, and aunts, hand-in-hand across oceans and continents, to provide a community garden?  To give their families the nourishing food they need, food that can change their lives, save their lives?  The door is standing open.

Update: By God’s grace and the generosity of so many, the garden has already been funded!!  Visit the Maumbane Community Center site at Pure Charity for other ways you can be involved.

Five Minute Friday