(f)aith in practice

23 10 2012

I am awed, inspired, and drawn into true worship of our creator by the music of Gungor.  Clearly facebook knows this fact about me as on a day last March, one of those annoying side ads simply stated, “If you like Gungor then you may like JennyandTyler“.  Got me – the one and only time I’ve clicked on one of those ads.  I’m glad I did because I did like Jenny and Tyler.  So much so that I looked to see where they would be playing and found that they would be on the campus of USC the following week.  The concert was being hosted by a student group bringing awareness to three ministries in which students were involved.

I couldn’t find anyone interested in going to the concert with me, so uncharacteristically, I went by myself.  Prior to the concert, I was drawn to a table where a beautiful young lady was enthusiastically sharing her dream of empowering Zambian widows to support themselves and their families by learning sewing skills and financial accountability.  I went on to find out that this college senior had founded Clothed in Hope and planned to return to Zambia in July.  During the concert, she shared this short video

The concert was amazing and as I left I called my friend Debbie and talked endlessly about the beauty of the music and the young lady, Amy Woodell.

Since that evening, I’ve had the joy of sharing a meal with Amy and hearing her story.  I somewhat expected to hear the usual Sunday School story, but what I heard was a story of real life, grace, redemption and hope.  I love how our younger generation just doesn’t play games.  There is something so appealing about authenticity.

I purchased a sewing machine for the Clothed in Hope group to honor my Mom and watched as Amy did go back to Zambia.  I’ve followed the stories of the women as they’ve grown from unsure to confident.  Their hope is contagious and these women who have so little now joyfully and generously give their time, supplies, and newly learned skills to train women who have less than them in a remote village.

Yesterday, I received a package in the mail.  Inside were bracelets, lovingly and skillfully made by the women of Clothed in Hope.  There was something so powerful and humbling about holding in my hand the fruit of what had been the dream of a 22 year old just months before. Hope and love.

I wish I could craft an eloquent word picture of this beautiful story, but thankfully, Amy has done that for us.  Take some time – read every blog entry here . You will be glad you did.  It’s so easy to become cynical and weary in the world of American Christianity.  Thank you Jesus for using Amy and the precious ladies from Clothed in Hope to refresh my soul.

PS – I went to a Gungor concert and small group Q & A with Michael Gungor this summer.  If you ever have the opportunity to go – GO!  It’s not your typical Christian concert.  Talk about a breath of fresh air!

PSS – We were honored to host Jenny and Tyler at our home for a house show in August.  What a special night and I’d do it again tomorrow.



17 09 2012

refresh: verb  make like new; give new life

Exactly.  My blog needs new life.  It has been neglected way too long.  I truly had good intentions to keep it current, but somehow it was quietly swept aside and almost forgotten.  My friend Debbie recently began blogging.  Her posts have been great; inspiring even.  Inspiring enough to reset the password I’d forgotten and freshen things up a bit.  Over the next few posts, I’ll try to catch up on faith, family, friends, fun, fitness and food.

I’ll leave you today with a scripture of hope and a beautiful song:

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

(F)araway Island II

17 03 2011

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8

Day 4

After we visited the village that first day, we came to understand that most of what defined the lives of these people was washed away in just a few moments.  Almost everyone lost a family member; some more than one. Those who still had a home had lost everything.  Some managed to save a few pieces of damaged furniture, but all their photographs, clothes, tools for their profession, bicycles, schoolbooks…everything was gone.

Our foam mattresses on plywood bases felt like beds fit for royalty that first night we slept.  We were housed in a small guesthouse.  No hot water seemed trivial since we did have indoor plumbing!  The sweet lady who runs the guesthouse and the two boys who help her couldn’t have kept the place cleaner or been kinder to us.

We began our day with devotions, breakfast, and orientation/job assignments from the ground team, which is comprised of four workers and a variety of  workers from other countries on temporary assignment in Sri Lanka.

I’ll have to preface this part by saying that as we were requested, just prior to our departure, to purchase and bring paintbrushes suitable for painting on stucco over concrete block, Rodney said, “I’ll do anything they ask of me, but I sure don’t want to paint!”  Yes, Rodney was assigned to the search and repair team that had just completed repairs on houses that now needed to be…PAINTED!  We just had to laugh at God’s sense of humor!!!  I was assigned, along with two other members of our team, to the search and repair team as well. Two members were assigned to assist in building a chicken coop where one once stood! 

We were reminded that our job assignments were important, but that our number one job was building and nurturing relationships with the people in the village.  Through these relationships, we would hopefully have the opportunity to share the love of Christ in actions and words.

Most of us loaded the van that would be our transportation during our stay.  Our driver, would be our interpreter along the way.  Rodney decided to ride in the tuk-tuk driven by a young man who would come to be a good friend.

Our house was the third of three in a row that all belonged to family.  At the first house in the row, we met the father/grandfather.  As a carpenter, he makes all the window frames for the village…with hand tools!  It was amazing to watch him work.  He was working with tools purchased by our ground team and was thrilled to have us there. We walked down to the house where we’d be working and began using wire brushes to scrape the stucco…mold and mildew left by the high standing water level was unmoving and required much elbow grease and a lot of bleach!  We weren’t there 10 minutes before one of the men shinnied up a coconut tree in the yard and came down with several king coconuts.  He promptly cut the tops off, then with three whacks of his machete created a hole and handed them to us to drink.  It was a messy, but fun experience and one that would be repeated over and over again by these wonderfully hospitable people.

We soon met Upul.  Before the tsunami, he had been a tuk-tuk driver, but his tuk-tuk was washed away along with his home.  He now lives in one of the wooden shacks with his wife and two sons while he waits for his home to be rebuilt.  He was grateful that the ground team had given him a job as a painting contractor.  He would be working with the painters and would become Rodney’s good friend.

As I was working, a lady that lived behind the house beckoned me over.  She spoke broken English, but enough that I knew she wanted me to come to her house.  As her story unfolded, I learned that her home and small shop had been washed away…this was her sister’s home, but her sister had been killed by the tsunami.  Her family had moved in to have somewhere to live and to care for her sister’s children.  She asked, “You Christian?”  I replied that yes, I was a follower of Jesus, that He lived in me, and that He had so filled my heart with His love that I wanted to share that love with the people here.  She said she was a Christian too, but married into a Buddhist family.  I saw her statue of Mary and her picture of Jesus and was reminded that many here who profess to worship God just set up different idols and worship the statues and pictures but don’t understand the relationship.  I asked my new friend if I could pray with her and she eagerly agreed.  What a privilege to lift up the name of Christ with my friend.  My prayer is that she will not only believe, but also receive the unconditional love and forgiveness of Christ so that her worship will become a relationship.

The family living in “our” house included two beautiful girls, Dielke and Cecicula, Lal, the father and his sweet wife.  She invited us inside to watch her begin preparations for lunch.  All the work was done on the floor and the cooking done over open flame in a carved out concrete area in the wall called a stove!  A new experience for sure! 

Soon Julie, Glenda, and I were called to another area to make rounds with the doctor…a full-time worker here on temporary assignment.  Her gentle nature and loving touch with the people was all the medicine some needed. 

Our day ended with debriefing and prayer time as a team and then dinner at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean.  We were weary from the day’s work, but encouraged and anticipating what the next day would bring.

(F)araway Island

16 03 2011

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Habakuk 2:14

As we follow the unfathomable story unfolding in Japan, my heart aches for the people there and I’m transported back almost 6 years to Sri Lanka.  I’ve been re-reading my journal from our time there 6 months after the tsunami and thought I’d share.  I’ll post an entry a day for the next few days.  As we pray for the people of Japan, please continue to pray for the people of Sri Lanka where the prayer has been from Habakuk 2:14. Pray that the glory of the LORD will cover both of these island countries as the waters cover the sea.


Days 1-3

We were asked to serve as the team leaders for a most wonderful, divinely “hand-picked” team of seven; three women (ages 22, 43, 62) and four men (33, 46, 57, 61) each with a heart to serve and minister to the people of Sri Lanka. Other than Rodney and I, none of us knew each other before our journey as we are from 4 states.

The journey to Sri Lanka is long (we left Columbia at 2PM Saturday and arrived in Colombo at 9:05 Monday) and covers many countries.  The tears flowed as I watched on the map our plane flying along the border of Iraq…I thought of the sacrifice of our men and women there and prayed for the people of that hurting country.  We flew through Saudi Arabia on our way to the United Arab Emirates.  The airport there in Dubai screamed of the wealth of the country…anything that was glitzy and could be hung from the ceiling or walls was. People crowded the duty free kiosks to buy 21 carat gold jewelry studded with gems.  The stores along the corridors were packed in the middle of this night with shoppers buying perfume, tobacco, alcohol, and anything else they could fit in their suitcases.  It is the only airport in the world where I’ve watched people clamor to take photos of the airport itself. 

Our arrival at the airport in the capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo, was like a counter study to the airport in Dubai.  As we got off the plane far out on the tarmac to be bussed to the airport, the heat and humidity hit us quickly in our sleep-deprived state.  We walked into the very small, dimly lit terminal where we were again met with duty free shops…only this time selling new and used appliances…store after store selling the same things…appliances, fans, and cheap plastic containers.  The mood was somber and oppressive.  We all noticed the warning vividly stamped in red on our immigration form.  “Possession of illegal drugs in Sri Lanka will be punished by death.” 

Collecting our luggage wasn’t difficult…except for our one lost bag, the carry-on bag containing our necessities, including our malaria medication, which had been hastily checked in London when the flight attendant randomly decided a few bags were too heavy to be carry-ons. I left the lost luggage desk after almost an hour with a promise that our bag would be brought to me the next day…four hours away in a tiny village.  As we left the terminal, all of our senses were assaulted…the noise was deafening…people were shouting in another language, car horns were blaring, announcements were squawking on a long outdated PA system…the heat was oppressive, the smells were unfamiliar, and the sheer number of people we had to make our way through left us feeling like pin balls being bounced from side-to-side…we walked past manned machine-gun turrets to finally get to an open area where we regrouped and found our bus.  Our group was uncharacteristically quiet as we took in our first sights of this island country.

We loaded the bus for our journey south.  Made a quick stop to eat…at McDonalds…yes, McDonalds even in Sri Lanka!  I had McRice…no joke! I had curried rice with chicken called McRice!  It seemed even funnier in my foggy state!

We all sat with mouths agape as we had our first introduction to driving in Sri Lanka…like nothing we’ve EVER seen.  Driving on the left side is the standard, but driving anywhere and anything you like is the norm.  We dodged busses heading straight for us, three-wheeled taxi vehicles called “tuk-tuks” (motorized rickshaws), carts being pulled by animals or what looked like rotor tillers, bicycles, motorbikes, cows and even elephants in the streets, and pedestrians everywhere!  None of it seemed to rattle our driver like it did us!! The constant jerking of off and on braking left our tired bodies even wearier!

About thirty-minutes into our drive we began seeing debris and destruction left six months earlier by the tsunami.  Piles of rubble that were once family homes, beachside guesthouses with most of the walls gone, tents dotting the landscape where families were still living…waiting for help or government approval to try to rebuild.  The farther south we traveled, the more evident the destruction…more piles of rubble, many more tents and quickly constructed wooden shacks measuring 10×12 feet where entire families have lived since January, many more damaged buildings, parts and pieces of colorful fishing boats left at odd angles by the powerful waves.

We stopped at the village where most of our work would take place.  The total devastation of this village…seen so many times on TV because the train had been hit by the tsunami here, was still evident in rubble covering the ground among the temporary wooden shelters, the new homes that have been built, the few homes that survived, and still a few tents.  As I looked closely, I saw buttons embedded in the dirt, parts of clothing, broken dishes, parts and pieces of things that had been part of these peoples’ lives.  It was a tough moment as the enormity of what had happened here began to sink in.

The people, now coming to expect a new team’s arrival, scampered out to see us.  In America, this disheveled group of seven, wrinkled and weary from the journey would have seemed terribly out of place, but here in this village, we seemed to fit right in.  We visited the baker whose bakery was rebuilt and stocked with the equipment needed to reopen by our teams…the bicycle repair shop, housed in one of the wooden shacks, that was opened because team members had purchased tools that were washed away.  We knew we were just beginning to hear the stories and feel the pain the people here had endured. The children, anxious to meet us, came running…each hoping to gain special attention from one of us.  One of the ground team quipped, “The rule here is that you can only take two home with you, so pick wisely.”  We all laughed but became keenly aware at that moment how the children and adults alike would capture our hearts and make it so difficult to say good-bye.

(F)ear Factor

14 03 2011

Those who live in the shadow of their fear…are but slaves to its will

“Why are you going to Pakistan?  You know it’s a dangerous place.”  It was the first time I had felt real fear over my destination.  I was tired after a very long and weather delayed flight from Atlanta to Dubai.  Our team of five women had missed our connecting Emirates Air flight by just minutes and we were hastily rebooked on PIA – Pakistani International Airlines ( the nationals later told us it really stood for “prayer in the air”!).  It was in that line, surrounded by Pakistanis, not another American in sight, that this question was asked of us by Mohammad.  For a single moment, I wondered what in the world I was doing.  The fear was brief, but very real and almost paralyzing and thankfully it would be the last time I felt fearful for the next 14 days.  Mohammad watched out for us on this last leg of the journey like a brother until he knew we were safely in the care of those who came to greet us. 

It was three years ago this week that our team set out on a journey to Pakistan and India to host retreats for ladies in the region.  Our trip was motivated by our desire to love on, learn from, worship with, and just have lots of girl time with those who live in difficult places.  As it usually happens…we were the receivers of so many blessings.

I cannot even begin to tell how challenging the preparations for this journey were.  Families were less than supportive of our calling to go – not because they were against it, but because they loved us and feared what they couldn’t control.  The assassination of Bhutto just weeks before we left caused frayed nerves, lots of tears, and left many, who were sure we would finally change our minds, shaking their heads.  Yet, in the midst of all, we had indescribable peace.  In the end, our families gave us their blessings to go.  What a gift that was to us as we knew how difficult it was for them to release us! 

However, fear is not a factor here...when you are living in obedience!

The ladies we met left indelible imprints on all our hearts.  I’ve experienced the pure joy of getting to see many of them again on subsequent trips to the region.  The bonds I share with the other four women on our team will never be broken.  I’m so thankful obedience rather than fear won out – I cannot imagine my life without this experience that has helped shape me.  So, Dana, Debbie, Debbie, and Kimberly – “it was a blast : )” –  let’s do it again someday!  I love you all so much!

(F)acebook Faith

19 02 2011

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.  James 2:14-18 The Message

It all began innocently enough…just a normal morning with a quick perusal of Facebook to “connect” with all my friends in a meaningful way : ) and then I saw it :

 “someone”  likes put jesus back in school on Causes

Those of you who know me well are probably thinking, “Oh dear, I hope she didn’t click on it!”  Those of you who don’t know me well are probably thinking, “What’s wrong with that?  That’s a great cause.”  

I did click on it hoping, but sadly not expecting, to see some great practical suggestions of how WE can be Jesus in the schools,  but what I found was what I’ve cynically (I’m not proud of that!) come to expect. Comments such as: 

Joke: Dear God, why do let all these bad things happen in schools. A concerned student. Dear concerned student, I’m not allowed in school! What a crying shame!!!! In God’s Grace

 Take the guns out of school. Put JESUS back in.

 jesus should never been taken out of the schools. they would be alot more polite kids

 Here is what I think…Jesus never left the schools!  I find it somewhat amazing that we believe we can legislate Jesus in or out of  schools. Jesus called US, His followers, to be Him to the world.  That doesn’t mean when we wear a Christian t-shirt, expend all our energy to fight to post the ten-commandments or have the Lord’s Prayer read in schools, leave a tract in the form of fake money lying around hoping someone will pick it up, press like on a cause on Facebook, or go to church every time the doors are open that we’ve done our jobs.  Far from it.  Jesus called us to be the light of the world – how can we do that if we’re only hanging out in the light and rarely venture into the darkness? It is messy, it’s not program driven, it’s very relational, it’s what we as the body of Christ are called to do and it’s rarely easy!

Too often we use so much of our time and energy to fight for our “rights” as Christians when truthfully we forfeit “rights” when we become followers of Christ and choose to follow His commands.  We can be a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal all we want to be, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing.

So, as I step on my own toes, what do we do?  I pray that the 52, 751 who pressed “like” on Facebook are already putting feet to their faith, but here are some suggestions, and I’m hoping you will add more.  

  • If you walk or run, include a school on your daily route.  Pray for students, families, faculty, and staff as you make a loop or loops around the school.  Even if you don’t walk or run, pray every time you drive by a school. 
  • Volunteer to listen to elementary students read or to read to a class.
  • Volunteer to give ongoing help in an after school tutoring program.
  • Ask your Sunday School class, ladies Bible study, Men’s Fraternity, etc. to adopt class at school or sponsor a lunch for the faculty.  Money is nonexistent and still being cut, so schools are thrilled to have a group help out.
  • Help your local school’s FCA program.  I sponsor FCA at our school and we have 200+ students coming.  About half of those don’t go to church and we would love to have more adults involved!
  • Get involved with PTO/PTA at your local school to be in the school in meaningful ways.
  • Volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters to invest in the life of a young person who really needs a mentor.
  • Volunteer to hang out with kids, help with homework, or play games at a local shelter or children’s home.
  • Invest your time with children and young people at your church and encourage your church to reach way beyond its walls to do the same

I am in a middle school with 1450 students for 180 days each year.  In my position I am often involved with students who have lived a life I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I have many times thought that I may be the only person who has ever prayed for this child.  Whew!  I don’t ever want to forget or take lightly the privilege I have every day.   

To be continued…


19 01 2011

 Love never gives up. 
 Love cares more for others than for self. 
 Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
 Love doesn’t strut, 
 Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
 Doesn’t force itself on others, 
 Isn’t always “me first,” 
 Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
 Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
 Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
 Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
 Puts up with anything, 
 Trusts God always, 
 Always looks for the best, 
 Never looks back, 
 But keeps going to the end.  ~I Corinthians 13: 4-7  The Message

My parents have been married 53 years today!  Happy Anniversary to the sweetest couple and greatest parents I know.