go

It’s Easter.

Today I woke up, put on a dress (my least favorite thing to wear, ever, which is why Sunday afternoons are basketball shorts/sweatpants capri days to reward my morning sacrifice), and walked to church with Dexter (also known as Rogelin, who is a student living at the Pathways building). Who consequently got some friendly teasing from the guards on the way out the gate for walking with one of the white chicks to church. Amy would have been with us, but I have a group coming tomorrow that I am leading, so she had to take the one that came yesterday and they are out at Leogane.

It rained last night, thank the Lord for rain to knock down Port-au-Prince dust, so it was muddy on the way to church. The Chacos didn’t fail me as we navigated muddy rocks, large puddles, the part of the path we affectionately call ‘the bush’ because it really needs a good machete chopping, torched patches from neighbors burning their trash and gravel piles as our neighbors work to build up their homes. Really, this is how everyone should have to get to church, because riding in a car is so easy. There is something about the walk soaking in the morning sun and Haitian humidity that makes church a place you have to make an effort to be present.

Turning the corner on the home stretch, we came upon the woman who goes to the market for Jumecourt and a friendly ‘Bonjour!’ was tossed her way. She was in a beautiful coral colored dress and high heeled shoes with her hair resting in perfect ringlets around her face. My frizzy mop knotted on top of my head, long dress and sandals paled in comparison.

When we walked up to Ebenezer Church, a couple of the girls from Source de la Grace were making their way across the street and one grabbed my hand. We all got stopped by the ushers at the door, because they were praying inside. As I stood in the doorway, I couldn’t help but notice the man decked out in ALL white sitting at the front. White suit, white shirt, white vest, white tie, white socks and white shoes…Pastor Claude was in his Easter suit.

Dexter came to my side and said, “I’m going to sit with the kids.” I replied, “Great! Me, too.”

As the prayer finished they beckoned us inside, and started walking toward the kid side when the usher tried to redirect us. Telling her we wanted to sit with the kids got us the Haitian hand slap basically signifying ‘whatever.’

I slid into the row with some older girls and Dexter sat next behind me with his ‘village son’ who still lives at Source.

The singing began and I pulled out my Chants d’Esperance to sing along. I wasn’t listening well, so I missed the song number and the girls next to me were quick to help out. Several of the kids turned around and saw me there, sending big smiles and small waves. The fresh scent of soap drifted into my nostrils as I took in the kids in all of their Sunday morning finery. Girls with perfectly twisted hair, barrettes and bows. Boys in slacks and polos or buttoned down shirts. Haitian men in perfectly ironed suits, and women in beautiful dresses. Haitians dress for Sunday, Sunday doesn’t dress them!

As I started singing, some stared at the white chick singing in Creole. For whatever reason, it always mesmerizes them that I am really participating in the service and it makes me smile to myself every time.

Stand up. Sit down. Sing. Pray. Sing some more. Announcements…these can go on for well over 30 minutes. This is their community time to let everyone know what is going on in the life of the church, and they do not waste it. The choir sang, and then more prayer. Friends, talk about storming the gates of heaven, Haitians know how to pray. Complete lack of caring that anyone else can hear them. Their voices are released into the atmosphere as the most beautiful chorus reaching out to their Savior.

Merci Seigneur. Thank you, Lord.

Jesus vivant. Jesus lives.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Prayers for Pastor Claude’s message came next, and then we dug in.

Matthew 28

Isaiah 53

Matthew 18

The most poignant moment of the entire Easter service was Pastor Claude weeping while reading Isaiah 53. Weeping, friends, weeping…

“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed…It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs…” [Isaiah 53:1-5; 10]

I was so caught up in the text he had read thinking about being in Jesus’ lineage as an heir that I would have missed Matthew 18 if it hadn’t been for my friends looking out for me and pointing out we’d switched back to Matthew.

I am accustomed to Easter services in the States being all about joy and light and resurrection. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are for the somber services, right? Easter is reserved for joy and new life! It’s not that Haitians don’t have those services, we could hear them singing over the walls at Jumecourt the other night. And it’s not that they were not celebrating resurrection, because they definitely got their praise on with ‘Jesus vivant!’

It’s almost as if the bearing of their sin and the call to go is so intense in their lives that the hope in resurrection lives through each of those moments, instead of having its own separate time. Truly, new life and the new Kingdom is such a strong focus here that it does make sense. Though, remember, my Creole isn’t stellar and these are simply observations merged with what little I understand.

Pastor stopped in the middle of the sermon and had the congregation stand and sing this chorus:

A toi la gloire – O Ressuscité! A toi la victoire – Pour l’éternité!

To you the glory, O Risen! To you the victory – for eternity!

Death became life. Life defeated death. However you want to look at it, what happens after is the call to go. The call to be love. The call to move forward the message of the Gospel. The call to live out the resurrection. Without living out an answer to Jesus’ taking on the pain of the entire world’s sins, without accepting the reality and miracle that was his resurrection…who are we? Definitely not one of his heirs.

There is a reason Jesus didn’t appear to the disciples and say, “Fellas, I know it’s been hard, so hole up here in this room and they won’t kill you. This is the safest place to be and I want you to be safe.” That looks weird even to type it. Instead, Jesus sends them out with the exact radical message of love, grace and championing the least in their world that got him nailed to a cross.

The entire chapter of Matthew 28 was read during service this morning. This is what happens after resurrection:

“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this; I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

Complete authority, not partial, complete.

Go and make disciples. Or the “Stephanie Interpreted Version,” go and love Jesus so much that others are drawn to do genuine Gospel life with you.

Baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Teach to obey all commands.

I am with you always.

Read between the lines…the Trinity is real, God’s love justifies, Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy and that is a message people will be thirsty to hear and learn in doing life with you. You are a redeemed people. There is hope for this world to be restored. God has not forgotten his creation. The Kingdom is present now.

A large part of that Kingdom surrounded me after church was over…as Pastor Claude had read from Matthew 18:1-6. Kids shaking my hand and giving the customary benediction that for today changed from ‘Bondye beni ou!’ or ‘God bless you!’ to ‘Bon fet Pak!’

Happy Easter, friends!

Jesus is resurrected and says GO.

resurrection

The entire life of Jesus present with God’s creation led up to his sacrifice for us, not ending there at death, but rising again in resurrection. God sent him, so that his life would redeem his creation.

I think of all the times in the Old Testament that God was angry with his creation, and that anger poured out in so many terrifying ways. I don’t think we like to ponder why God’s anger poured out, because we see too many similarities with how his creation exists today.

Disease. War. Hunger. Pain. Thirst. Sex trafficking. Drugs. Death.

It’s endless, right? This world sucks.

But God tried to help us see another way.

God sent Jesus.

The baby sent to redeem creation.

The man who started his ministry by telling people not to talk about him yet, and to stop praying for show.

The man who laid a foundation of belief, healing and community before giving himself to all.

The man whose stories led back to the Kingdom of God. Every. Time.

The man who was a true rebel preaching about helping prostitutes, murders, sick, hungry and poor.

The man who built community with 12 guys who didn’t have a clue.

The man who poured out his heart in prayer for ALL OF US before he was arrested.

The man who hung on a cross while freely giving salvation to a murderer.

The man.

That’s key.

He was born. He lived as one of us. He died.

And then…he rose.

Resurrection.

Life. Real life. Living in the Kingdom.

This world is not the end. This world isn’t even close to the Kingdom of God.

But it had been, until sin crept into that sacred space.

In my imagination, I see it as a big oil dump over creation. Slick, slimy, reaching into every crevice and so hard to get off. After working on getting oil off for a while, we want to give up…toss in the towel and head home where we can escape that hard, nasty, messy work.

But the oil covers our home…this world where we have the privilege to live out our earthly lives.

The oil needs to come off, and God guarantees he will restore it.

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 mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [Revelation 21:3-6]

Collective sigh of relief? All of this is meant to only be for a time, then God makes everything new again?

Yes. Undoubtedly, yes…but…

It dishonors the creator when creation sits and waits while parts of creation are in pain.

It dishonors the man who gave his entire life when we choose to not pay attention to his teachings.

It dishonors the world that has been made slick with oil of our sin when we want to throw in the towel on restoring God’s creation simply because it is too hard.

IMG_3533As we lean into the beauty of Easter, we also need to lean into the sin of the world we live in…it is where Jesus lived and died. Not to make us depressed and discouraged, but to inspire and invigorate the life we have living as people called by Jesus. Jesus didn’t die so we could play it safe and wait for God to come and restore it all. Nothing about Jesus’ life and the example he lived for his disciples shows us to play it safe and wait. It calls us to be daring in how we react to the world around us. It calls us to be restorers. If the Kingdom of God is coming, doesn’t it make sense to work toward the restoration that Kingdom will bring? To set right the wrongs around us? To confess sin and find redemption? To see God’s heart, and joy in the lives that the world says don’t matter? To live a live that is honoring to resurrection?

May you find the heart of God while you seek your answer, because each one of us has a different role in working toward restoring the Kingdom of God and any voice telling you different, is not the voice of the one who created you.

dresses

I hate dresses. Really. Huge hatred for dresses. I don’t have good mobility. I have to cross my legs…the list could go on. I’m just a jeans and fleece girl. I remember when I was a kid, my mom and aunt were trying to get me to like a particular one that was white with big huge flowers on it, I think I was about 9 and it was for a wedding…ugh, bad memories!

I didn’t like them as a kid, and I only wear them as an adult for other people. About 1-3 times a year I succumb to ‘a dress would be best in this situation.’ Easter being one of them, and several people tried to catch photos on their phones. Now what are they going to do with that?

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In high school I didn’t go to prom as a junior, and my friends talked me into going as a senior. The last thing I wanted to do was find a prom dress…or ask a guy to go with me! But it was what was expected. I did have fun, and actually had a date who was a good dancer. But it wasn’t about the dress or how I looked, it was the friends I was with instead…

As much as I hate dresses, there are a million girls who love them, and a million girls who cannot wait to go to prom and live out the fairy tale. I’m just not a fairy tale girl. I’d prefer to watch Duke play over The Bachelor, and action/superheroes over chick flicks. When a friend was talking about the price of engagement rings yesterday, I actually said, ‘I think I’d want a big-ass TV instead of huge bling.’ I’m ‘girly’ in other ways…I’m just not a ‘frilly’ girl. I love to cook (and yes, I know boys cook, too), and don’t even get me started on my art side.

Yesterday I saw our church turn into a community center, and it was beautiful. Bus loads of girls came in to our Prom Boutique held for the first time in our Worship Center. They have been doing it for 9 years, many of those years in our gym. In one day of the 5 day boutique, they had over 400 dresses given away.

Girls were everywhere trying on dresses. The Worship Center had been turned into a actual store with several dressing rooms set up. But there still wasn’t enough space for the hundreds of girls here to find the perfect Prom dress.

Girls were in bathrooms. Girls were in the Lecture Hall. Boys bathrooms where turned into dressing rooms. Our bride’s room was a satellite dressing room, perfect with the mirrors on the walls.

IMG_9472And all of the seating areas around the WCC Café? They became waiting areas for dads, bothers and boyfriends.

Yesterday afternoon there was so much life in our church building that it was as though you could touch the energy itself with your fingers.

I cannot even imagine this week how many young ladies will come through our doors that have had a bad experience with ‘church.’  Who have been outcast for their sexual orientation, rule breaking, ‘sinful’ living or *gasp* teen pregnancy. Just because you have made a bad choice does not outcast from you a group of believers that follow a Lord who served the prostitutes, adulteresses, tax collectors, broken and poor. That should give you an engraved invitation to be loved and brought into the family.

IMG_9452The ladies serving in the Prom Boutique have a beautiful opportunity to not only provide a dress, some jewelry, shoes and perhaps a handbag…they have a opportunity to touch the life of a young teenager.

To show the love, compassion, kindness and grace that Christ desperately wants these ladies to know personally. Because the truth is you never know what a kind word or a quick smile, in a room where 825 worshipped that Jesus had risen last Sunday, will mean to someone. I guarantee you there is some Holy Spirit in that room.

Join me in praying for these servants and the lives they will be touching this week. That they may be renewed and refreshed by King Jesus, and that they would be discerning of interactions God has prepared for them to be a physical piece of Him.

I may hate dresses, but there are over 400 girls just yesterday that say I am the minority…and that’s ok because the mission of God is progressing while I’m whining about wearing heels.

life

Life is precious. Life is beautiful. Life is also undeserved, and most of us throw away the gift of life that was given.

Today is a day you have a new opportunity to grab life by the horns. Refocus. Renew. Center around a new purpose.

I saw so many faces at church today that blessed me. Some admitted they had been absent for too long. Others just reflected the same joy in seeing familiar faces.

It was a community coming together under the roof of their house.

But also let me add that its not about just coming to the community ‘home’ on a certain time every week…its about using that community to support you as you live out what God is teaching you through your community.

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My Chaco clad feet merged with a Haitian orphan.

I wish that I could better convey to people the joy, excitement, hope, grace, peace and adventure they could claim if they centered their life around Christ. But instead so many of us add him on to the busyness this world gives us, and hope that it all works out ok.

I can no more make that choice for them that God can. Because, Lord knows, he wants all to choose his life. We just let this world cloud our Kingdom vision.

What God has given each one of ua is our life story to share. Or struggles and pain. Our heart and what God has been teaching us. Similar circumstance that might draw someone’s heart closer to the Healer.

Are you sharing your life story? Are you living the life that your resurrected and eternal Savior has gifted you?

Today we are reminded that we are a resurrected people. The true question is…will you live your life with the hope and promise Christ has given you through his sacrifice?