tears

2016.2.21 Abby needing near while nene sleeps (2)My hand was on his arm and my voice questioning what was wrong today, when I saw the first tears silently run down his cheeks and drip onto his shorts as he stared across the yard, refusing to look me in the eye, yet unmoving from my vicinity. Thanks to our younger friend, who was oblivious while slumbering in my arms making sleepy sighs and toddler snores, I happened to be firmly planted on the step with nowhere to be.

I kept tossing questions at him, trying to figure out what to do and how to help.

Eventually, his head ended up in my lap, desperate to hide his tears from other peering eyes that would laugh and judge in a culture that doesn’t look at tears as a good thing.

Silence. It’s all I got as I continued to press my friend to help me understand the why as his tears soaked the fabric covering my knee, and empathetic tears threatened to roll down my own cheeks.

Why today? Why this minute? Why so sad?

Everyone has a bad day, but I know him well enough to know there was more going on than just a bad day.

Being an orphan sucks.

And some days, being the friend of an orphan sucks.

It’s not fair. Whatever family catastrophe that brought that child to that moment of being alone is not fair, and it is definitely not God’s heart for their young lives to grow up around 75 other kids.

Many years ago, I had a translator say to a child living in an orphanage, “You did something to deserve being here. You did something to deserve your family not wanting you.”

Bullshit.

No child should ever hear it is their fault, and no child should ever be made to feel less than simply based on where they grow up. The label of ‘orphan’ should never command the future of a child and whether they can get a job, or a spouse that would marry someone without a family to help support them. Yet these social stigmas follow them as they become adults.

The pain in the orphans of this world has become very tangible to me. Not through any tragedy of my own, or enduring the suffering of knowing I was alone in the world. But through my deep, genuine love for my friends. My friend’s tears dripping onto my shorts as his head lay surrendered to my knee, brought tears to my own eyes…eyes that rarely leak. His pain brought about righteous anger in my heart to right the wrongs around him.

The reality is children get their choice taken away. Their age eliminates their choice, and more often than not, poverty holds captive any future hope of reuniting with family.

I champion the orphaned children of the world, because God has called me into their world. He has called me to be faithful to that call, loyal in my friendships and present in their lives to speak, to love, and to actually give a damn about their life. This is not the way it was supposed to be.

Why is there so much apathy in this world? Why don’t more people care?

Why is the fight for restoration and reunification of the least importance, while we choose to live under the oppression of technology, wealth and selfishness?

I don’t have the answers. I can’t solve every problem. I cannot stop the tears from flowing. Even in the moments I am desperate to see them disappear.

But I can choose to be present and make room in an already full lap. I can brush away those tears and say, “I am here. I am praying. I love you.”

I can use the resources God has given me to support those who are funding their care. I can help fund their education so the cycle doesn’t repeat itself as they grow into adults. I can purchase things from businesses that are creating jobs to keep families together.

I can use my God given voice to call out those that refuse to hear our God who is calling his church to stop rebelling against the things of his heart, and fight against the injustice of this world.

Because our silence has made us rebellious against God.

Because our apathy has made us rebellious against God.

Because our inaction has made us rebellious against God.

Because our impure motives have made us rebellious against God.

Because our misuse of resources to help others has made us rebellious against God.

And while rebellious nature is ingrained in who I have been created to be, I refuse to be the one rebelling against the one who redeemed me through the blood of Jesus, brought me into Kingdom life and where my hope is placed in seeing this world restored to rightness and every tear wiped away.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying, nor orphans or widows, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ [Revelation 21:3-4, with bolded addition by me]

Because that is a future I can fight for, to know that my friends who the world calls orphans will have no reason for tears to escape their eyes, and their young lives will never again be impacted by death and poverty.

Because we should give a damn. Because we must refuse to let apathy and distraction dictate our God ingrained calling to actually be a community of people that love God so intentionally that we choose to fight for a world where people are loyal in their friendships to orphans, to speak worth and value into those hearts, and to fight for those kids to be in families.

Because each time I see the tears of my friends falling relentlessly, I choose to not be silent, I choose to be obstinate against apathy and I choose to be rebellious for God…not against him.

silence

Silence is deafening.

I moved to Haiti almost two years ago. It doesn’t feel like it has been that long, but when I think about the healing and purifying of my soul in this place, God has been hard at work in those years. My soul, heart and mind needed a strong, refreshing cleanse and thankfully God has provided it in Haiti.

Through that cleansing has been a lot of listening, many moments of sinking deep into scripture and even more moments with my friends who are in the care of a local pastor while living in a children’s home. My small friends have taught me it is ok to be still and the value of being fully present, among much more I’m sure I am not even aware of yet.

Over a year ago, God imparted a thought on me that I have struggled with since. Over that time, we’ve argued back and forth with a solid amount of avoidance on my part and equal part overt denial. The reality was he had sent me here to restore my heart, mind and soul…to live fully within my calling and who he has created me to be…and now he has poured into and purified those three pieces of me to the point he wants to use them for his church in the States.

For me…that’s scary.

I don’t feel I have a voice that is useful.

I don’t feel like anyone in the Stateside church would listen to anything I have to say, or am given to say.

My apprehension is that I won’t fit back into that world well, because I have fit so well within this world. And friends, they are not the same. They should be, but they are not. There is a freedom of Spirit within the Haitian church that I haven’t ever experienced in Stateside church. There is a freedom in this reality that makes Stateside life seem unrealistic. There is freedom within the all encompassing Kingdom culture that is inspiring and life giving.

A couple of months ago, God brought me to Acts 18…

One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream, ‘Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens I am with you, and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.’ That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians. [Acts 18:9-11]

IMG_0056

I am a scripture doodler, and I just happened to be doodling when the image of the flower and petals pour into my mind.

The image God gave me within those words is one of a flower with petals missing…scattered, but instead of the typical ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ of pulling petals off of the flower, instead this visual was that the petals had chosen to be separated and were actively choosing to stay separated when they have a Lord whose desire is for all to be grafted together as one whole flower.

Too many times, the local church chooses to stay separate from each other and chooses to not cross denominational lines. One of the best examples working against that separation I’ve seen recently is GO Project’s CarePortal where many local churches are making small, simple choices to assist social workers and foster kids with needs that come up, despite their differences. (to learn more about CarePortal go to careportal.org) But in order for believers to fully be a Kingdom community and embrace our calling within the Kingdom…we cannot be separate. We have to be one. God’s heart is for us to be unified as his people, all fighting to right the wrongs of this world. Instead we get caught up in religious and political differences. When we choose to let those things motivate and move us, we choose to allow silence on the things that matter to give a stronger picture of who we are as believers. Our silence becomes our inaction. Our silence continues the status quo, and gives us no gains for the Kingdom. And frankly, the status quo sucks. I’m not content for people to go hungry, kids not be education, parents to give up their kids, kids who have lost everything to be alone and injustice to be swept under the rug.

As most of my friends and family know, I am not good at silence. Constantly, my mouth does not have a filter and it gets me in trouble. Constantly. And I think that inability contributes to my thoughts that I won’t be able to fit in well with Stateside local church. God has changed me in Haiti. I like to think for the better. He has intensified many things I have always been passionate about, and he has directed me into new territory. Though, I do have faith and confidence that God knows what he is doing and that ultimately, his way is best and most life giving for me. Basically, I’m just too stubborn sometimes.

But I choose to not be intimidated and I choose not to embrace silence on the things that really matter within the reality of God’s Kingdom and his unconditional love and grace.

 

love

There is one who so intimately, so intentionally and so unconditionally pursued my heart.

There is one who would never take no for an answer, as I often pushed him away, yet his love for me was incredibly pure.

There is one who so willingly wrapped his arms around me that it wiped away insecurity and doubt I had of not deserving his love…of not being enough for him.

There is one who insistently attempts convincing me he has fulfilled every desire I could ever have of being wanted…of being chosen.

There is one who busted through every boundary, every heavily fortified wall I created to protect myself.

He is the one I follow. He is the one I have surrendered every part of myself. He is always faithful. He knows my every fault and every crevice that needs to be healed by his love. He is the one who fully acknowledges I am his asshole first and anyone else second.

There is one who I cannot help but pursue back, because he so faithfully and passionately pursued me who couldn’t help but run away.

I cannot help but be loyal, because his loyalty to me is never ending. I cannot live without his presence. He is life to me. The air I breathe. The balm of my existence.

My One is the refreshing, redeeming caress of undeserving, unconditional love in a world where his creation cries out in anguish for restoration and renewal.

…and he is coming back, this One, this Jesus.

Jezi ap vini.

 

mighty refuge

There is so much pressure in the States.

Pressure to have all the answers. Pressure to be excellent. Pressure to be the best. Pressure to make the most money. Pressure to make your name mighty, to be remembered.

But the only thing that pressure is telling you is that you are the focus. You are the purpose.

You. You. You.

I have an incessant need to know that God is mighty. That God is God. And that I am not. I can’t explain how this happened, and I know others struggle with it. But for me it has always come easy, because of that need to know it is not all me.

In Kingdom moments we need to know we are not the purpose. God is the purpose, and we get to be the conduit. We get to honor him as he would use us in his story. We get to reflect his heart.

I need to know that there is someone is greater, because I would never be able to withstand that pressure.

I need to know someone has my back, and will not abandon me at the most opportune time.

I need to know that there is a Creator who is a mystery and that it is okay to not know everything. That it is okay to not have all the answers.

Even David shared the same sentiment:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. [Psalm 62:5-7]

Even in my most impassioned moments, when I am yelling cuss words at my Creator, deep down, I need to know that there is someone Greater. Because I don’t need or want the pressure.

I value my choice within this world, and I honor the God who was creative, humble and gentle enough to give that choice. But in the end, I need to know he is mighty. I need to know he is my refuge. I need God to be God.

 

injustice

My morning rhythm has various OCD tendencies, and the most important of all is grabbing one of my Papillon mugs and putting creamer in it before walking upstairs to join the myriad of visiting Americans sating their java addictions at the coffee pot. One morning last week was no different…Bible in hand, mug in the other, walking across the parking lot, eyes blinking against the intense Caribbean morning sun, up the stairs and straight to the coffee pot. No eye contact. No talking. Just trekking. Ugh. Why does my mind and body have to hate mornings?

Resisting the urge to yawn yet again while holding my precious elixir, I walked to the upper deck for devotions with our group that is in town visiting the Pastor’s kids. As I sat, I was jolted awake with captive interest at the Bible verses for this morning from Isaiah 1. I could have bypassed the coffee pot entirely this morning had I known conversation with friends, bouncing perspectives off of each other and digging into Isaiah 1 awaited me on the top deck. This paragraph alone should tell you how thankful I am for people to talk Bible with are in country. Contented sigh and heart full of community.

The book of Isaiah ignites my natural passion to fight the injustice of this world. Isaiah 58 will always be imbedded in my calling. Actually, passion is a really tame word for what God ignites in me. Injustice makes me f-ing angry, and no one ever wants to see a redhead angry. Trust me. There are so many things that are just not right, and if I do not use the life I’ve been given to fight for those are stuck in a hopeless cycle of injustice or those who feel their voice doesn’t count and use my voice to make sure they know their worth…my life is wasted.

A good Biblical definition of injustice is this:

A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away. [Proverbs 13:23]      

Injustice is not fair, and while living outside of the States…it is overwhelming the amount of injustice you are assaulted with on a daily basis. I am given a front row experience on what real injustice is in the majority world.

It is not fair that people are hungry.

It’s not fair a 5 year old girl bears the raggedy scars of abuse up and down her arms and back.

It is not fair that parents drowning in their lack of basic needs like food, water, clothes and education feel no choice other than to give their children to an orphanage for someone else to take care of them.

It is not fair that a lack of health care for the general population results in unnecessary deaths and diseases of ALL ages, some easily preventable or curable.

It’s not fair the unemployment rate is 70%, stripping dignity of the people to earn a living wage and provide for their families.

It’s not fair that when they are employed, yet they are not earning a living sustainable wage.

It’s not fair that politicians are so selfish and corrupt they are immune to their countries’ needs.

It’s not fair those that lead the country cannot seem to get their shit together for the good of their people.

The injustice is overwhelming.

Seared into my mind is the day God brought me to the words of the prophet Habakkuk. I was struggling with a wide array of opinions surrounding my choice to go to China during the summer of 2001. By that point, I knew who God had created me to be, but the opinions around me were not forming the same consensus. I’d been sitting on a bench, at a lake I typically escaped to north of Des Moines, when a deer approached me. Stunned, when the deer left, I dove back into the word and there was a deer photo on the book of Habakkuk in my study Bible and I started reading. Habakkuk was not shy with what he said to God, actually I imagine if he used current world language there would have been a healthy dose of cursing. He saw the evil, the sin taking over and the injustice that overwhelms the poor in the world that comes with both of those factors. He was pissed, and felt it was God’s role to do something. When I read Habakkuk in 2001, he knew where I would be living 15 years later. And when I think about all of the things that are unfair in Haiti, it would make complete sense for me to echo Habakkuk who was confronted with the similar visuals:

How long oh, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. [Habakkuk 1:2-4]

These words are so pertinent to Haiti right now, and it would take me 4,000 more words to help you understand why. I don’t even know the half of it, but it continually makes my heart ache.

When Watson got sick, he was taken to 2 hospitals that denied him and was at a third being checked in when he died in the arms of his caretaker.

When Watson got sick, he was taken to two hospitals that denied him and was at a third being checked in when he died in the arms of his caretaker. He has come into care of the local church about 3 months prior so malnourished with his twin that they had to be immediately hospitalized. His twin sister didn’t live beyond that hospitalization. A group snapped this photo the previous weekend when I was at the Pastor’s church with some visitors.

There are many in the States who are passionate about justice, and confronting injustice. A lot of social campaigns, a lot of social media words and so many conferences devoted to the ‘battle.’ It is a Gospel truth, and I am very grateful it is resonating among those in the States God is moving among. Believers and those that don’t believe…God is the core of that movement. But how much of their passion is hollow? How much of that passion really has follow through? Are they empty words and promises?

But the thing I keep thinking about is that they don’t know the small girl with eyes filled with a blank deadness, marks of pain all over her body, flinching at every small movement around her, the skinniness of her frame after it had suffered her entire life and craving the enormous gift of protection. They don’t know how her joyful, spunky personality that has exploded once that protection was given.

They don’t know the names and faces of the people who rescued her from that certain death.

They don’t know the names and faces of those that are helping support the people who gave her that protection.

They don’t know the names and faces of people who give to that entity that supports them.

But do they need to know their names and faces?

God calls his people to fight injustice, to defend the oppressed, to cloth those that need clothes, provide a living sustainable wage, to stand up to bullies and to support those that are on the front lines of that fight throughout the ENTIRE world. The States included, because God calls his people to all facets of this world. The reality is God is calling his people to participate in EVERY aspect of that fight. Some are never meant to be on the front lines. I know I am not on the front lines. I am close, but I am not on the front lines. That is where the pastors and their congregations are called to minister. It will always be a million times more effective for Haitians to minister to Haitians in a culturally effective and honoring way. I do know the names and faces of those on the front lines, and I call them friends. I get to encourage them. I get to be sad with them. I get to celebrate victories with them. This is where God has called me to be.

The question is where is God calling you to step into his heart? Where will you use the gifts and talents he has given you to help fight injustice?

These are questions you need to wrestle with, because it isn’t always going to be like this. God is moving. God has promised. God redeems and restores. It is exciting that each of us is grafted somehow into his victorious story. It is exciting to see him show up, yet still only have a small piece of the massive redemption story of this world.

Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. [Habakkuk 1:5]

look

mountains beyond mountains‘Dèyè mòn gen mòn’

‘Mountains beyond mountains’

I always think of this Haitian proverb as we are driving throughout Haiti and moving through the mountains to visit the Pastors and the kids they are caring for in Haiti. It’s hard to miss range after range of beautiful variations of green and brown reaching to the crystal blue sky.

I will fully confess to falling in love with the proverb simply because of how in love I am with the mountains of Haiti. They are beautiful, and when you get to a summit, the view is insanely spectacular. I just want to stare until my depth of vision carries me to the farthest site I can glimpse.

There are a lot of different ways Haitians will use this proverb, and isn’t that the beauty of proverbs? That they can be individualized to the one who is using it?

I just sent a text to two Haitian friends asking them what it meant. One sent back, “Everyone has someone more powerful than her/him.” And the other one said, “There is always something greater and can be used for wealth, strength or any other value. Like ‘You think you have strength? There are mountains beyond mountains.’”

Other things I’ve read and heard are references to when you solve one problem another presents itself to solve, or endless opportunities.

Somewhere in my crazy head, as I look at the beauty of Haiti and bask in the visual feast of the mountains, it has become a reminder to carry vision for beyond what I currently see in front of me. As I continually walk in this journey with God, it is at times a massive leap of faith and other times so perfectly in line with my calling that it makes the difficulty of decision making void. Always listening. Always discerning. But I am constantly putting my hope where Jesus consistently told his disciples to look…God’s Kingdom. The thing is, I do not look to anything that makes earthly sense, but my soul knows it is there and it resonates intensely. It is unexplainable. It is supernatural. It is the absolute core of God.

‘As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ [2 Corinthians 4:18]

 

voice

You have a voice.

I have a voice.

All people have a voice.

There is a lot to be said for how you use the voice God has given you.

Sometimes we use our voice to hurt others, and strip them of their God given dignity.

Sometimes we use our voice to build people up, and empower their God given gifts.

Sometimes we are told our voices do not matter.

Other times we enthusiastically applaud people when they use their voice.

Last night, I was in a conversation with a team in country about poverty and how poverty is perceived based on an American perspective, and then from the perspective of the person American perceives to live in poverty. Simply because our American definitions place people within poverty, doesn’t mean the people we apply those definitions to perceive themselves as poor. In my experience, even in countries that the world hypes as ‘most poverty stricken in the *whatever* hemisphere,’ there are always people within those countries who do not consider themselves poor, that Americans would consider poor, because their neighbor is worse off. In Haiti, when you pray before a meal, it is customary to pray for the people who do not have food to have food to eat. And in the instances that those Americans perceive as poor are asked, they do not emphasis the lack of material things that the Americans would initially notice. Instead they list things they lack such as dignity, respect…and lack of voice intermingled with hopelessness. There are a lot of ways to dig into this, but what keeps rolling around my head from the conversation last night was that those perceived to be living in poverty feel they have no voice.

I don’t ever want to be arrogant enough to think I have the ability to give someone their voice or even worse…be their voice. It shatters my heart into pieces that any person living in this world would feel others are so apathetic that they choose to not listen and give value to anyone’s God given voice.

IMG_1491It is incredibly appropriate that today, of all days, while I am wading through some of these thoughts I found myself hanging with my friends next door. As we found a quiet corner in the large compound with almost 80 kids and 21 visiting Americans, I sat my young 4 year old buddy on the table in front of me in their cafeteria. My other buddy was standing next to us, as I looked at him and said ‘Let’s practice numbers. Count for me.’ I raise one finger and in English, not Creole, he easily pronounces ‘1’ and proceeds to go all the way to ‘10’ without hesitation as I held up the fingers for each number. When he finished reciting in English, we said, ‘Ok, in Creole!’

‘One, two, three, four, five, six…eight…’ he recited in Creole.

Um. No, little buddy, ya missed seven.

Oh, my Lord. My older buddy and I looked at each other and busted out laughing. Completely thinking at the same time that he had counted perfectly IN ENGLISH, however, did not know his Creole numbers. We decided to give him another chance and he nailed it, and then received quiet the celebration from us! I was yelling ‘Yay!!!’ as loud as I could, and our friend started shouting, ‘Good Job! Good job!’ as he giggled and jumped with a massive smile on his face. He then planted his smiling face into my young buddy’s lap and wrapped his arms around him giving him the biggest hug. I then wrapped my arms around them both. Fully recognizing the amazing feat I had just witnessed, and so, SO proud of him.

I’ve seen his journey over the last year and a half, and I’ve seen him find his voice since he started school in September. He talks clearly, really though he doesn’t stop talking now, he sings ALL of the time…English and Creole…but most importantly he is learning to use his voice.

And when I look at him, I never want him to grow up in Haiti and feel like the voice he has worked so hard to find at such a young age is not valuable to those around him. I want him to be heard. I want him to feel like his voice counts, and heaven forbid I ever meet someone who tries to strip that voice away from him. I. Will. Take. Them. Out.

If you really think about it, don’t all voices start out this way? Every single voice that is told it doesn’t matter throughout the world, started out as a young toddler just trying to figure it out. All voices started out as equal, and the sin of the world got in the way as it always gets in the way. As the sin divides and separates, we start ranking importance.

The bottom line is the value God places on voice. Each of the prophets used thought no one would ever listen to them. God uses the voices of those the world considers lesser to guide his people into building his Kingdom. God uses each and every voice of the world, in every context, it is us that get in the way and shame and devalue them.

In Isaiah 58, God is calling out his people to stop fasting in ways that are not genuine, not unlike some that only fast during Lent because it is the ‘right’ thing to do. However, the key in the beginning of Isaiah 58 is how God is telling Isaiah to live out his calling and use his voice:

‘Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious. They come to Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost thing this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God…’

How loud was God asking Isaiah to shout? Like the voice of a trumpet blast.

One of the problems with the world is that those perceived as poor are shouting out God’s words, they are full of the Holy Spirit and they DO have a voice that is incredibly valuable. Truly, it is a voice that could purify the world for God if the world would allow it. But those with the most in the world refuse to value those voices based on an assumed definition of poverty and the egotistical posture they take when looking at those in the world with less than they have.

You have a voice.

I have a voice.

And every single person created by God has a voice.

Choose to listen. Choose to empower. Choose to build dignity.

Choose to see value in each and every voice.