joy

God’s glory saturated yesterday.

And it was spectacular.
  

Friends, it was lovely and packed with memories I will not soon forget. And in a time where memories are made every day the fact that my smile is still plastered across my face, and probably making everyone think I am making fun of them in the deep recesses of my mind, says a lot. I am still overflowing with joy from everywhere God’s glory exploded bright yesterday. I kind of feel like when Moses’ face kept reflecting the glory of God after being in his presence and no one could look at him when he carried the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai. They were afraid to approach him because his face shone from talking to God. But it isn’t creepy. It isn’t scary. It is holy.

Oh, friends, that this joy would continually be reflected out of Haitian lives.

Yesterday marked the first graduating class of the Pathways program through Global Orphan Project in Haiti. Two years of hard work for students who have not passed school grades anywhere from 4th to 10th grade in Haiti and had to leave a Pastor’s care at age 18. Two years of living as a community. Two years of budgeting, language and life learning. Two years of true friendship and maturing. Two years of discipleship and growth as local church leaders. Two years of learning trade skills to earn a job within a country that has an unemployment rate of 70%. Two well fought years to reach yesterday.

I’ve seen grief in these students. I’ve seen their confidence grow. I’ve seen passionate prayer and worship. I’ve seen struggles. I’ve seen them walk with kindness and respect for others as they learn to navigate life beyond a Pastor’s care. I’ve seen them empowered and proud of themselves as they gain job skills and feel they have something to impart on younger students. I’ve seen them investing in other young lives still living in a Pastor’s care.

And yesterday, I saw them exploding with joy in their accomplishment. They were so, so happy. I kept telling them, ‘I am so happy for you!’ And one by one their eyes would shine bright and smiles would sparkle as they replied with, ‘Me too!’

As I reflect on yesterday while I journey to Kansas City for my brother’s celebrations leading him into a new married life…I am breathing deep breathes of gratitude.

Today I am praising true life, because it is a gift to live and count so, so many people as dear friends across so many different cultures and languages.

Today I am grateful for patience in Haitian culture, because through the craziness of traffic and no disgust in long lines, Haiti has taught me to slow down and treasure what is in front of me…to take the moments we are given for what they are meant to be.

I am inspired while living within a culture that lives the example of respectfully greeting colleagues and friends when you first see them in the day with a hand shake and kiss to the cheek. It is intentional. It is meaningful. It shows they are present with you and we are known by one another.

Today I am thankful for the examples of overflowing love of Jesus in the Haitian lives surrounding me, because it has taught me to not be ashamed of who I follow and easily sigh with ‘Seigneur Jésus.’ It has taught me that worship is passionate, with your whole existence crying out for the Savior.

Today I smile with overflowing love for a culture of extremes and being chosen to grow within this place. It is not easy living within the extremes of Haiti. This place is no where near perfect, but there is loads of beauty…even in dirt and trash. There are many things that ignite my sense of justice and many things that force me to rely on faith when I do not understand. But they hone my vision to God’s Kingdom restored and renewed, and fuel my fight for that Kingdom to be known.

Today I am refreshed by young lives filled with pride and confidence through empowerment.

As I sit and soak in the last year and a half, and look forward to the next year in Haiti, I see it as the incredible gift it is in my life. I am grateful for my calling, and this time of being placed perfectly within who God created me to be for his Kingdom. God’s glory is evident and present everywhere, but somehow Haiti purifies it and allows us to look through a clear lens. I will forever crave the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place and Haiti will forever make my heart explode.
  

holy moments

Lord, who am I that you would honor me with your presence?

Who am I that you would call me chosen?

Who am I that you would call me into an intimate journey with you?

The inner ramblings of my soul were intensified after a holy encounter at Leogane last week.

It was an odd mix of ages and eclectic life experiences, paired with intense love for music and Jesus.

Our trio of Americans walked to the back of Leogane as our pint sized entourage floated around us to visit the grandparents. Arriving under the shade of the mango tree, we were quickly told to sit as grandparents left their own seats to offer us their ingrained hospitality. The young man with us adamantly tried to get the grandmas to sit back down, so he wouldn’t take precious seating. Then he succumbed to their extreme hospitality when one grandma brought over a tattered business chair missing the back rest and padding, as she quietly put a pillow down for him to sit on, then pushing him into it.

A weird mix of emotions collides in those moments.

Who are we to deserve a seat in their presence? Who are we to deserve that extreme hospitality in a place we only desire to serve and love? Yet, to deny the hospitality is to insult, where we only want to love.IMG_2686

The young man tuned his guitar, the song sheets were held under the teamwork of feet so the wind would not claim it and music was offered into the air.

But then God made himself known and his Holy Spirit presence became tangible. What was meant as a gift of music became a merging of worship by al l ages where language is only an afterthought while the only real language needed is communion with the One we serve. Time suspended. Prayers were offered. Sacred ground.

The gift of discernment in the moments of worship is unique to incredibly talented individuals and, the young man and woman sitting with me are incredibly talented. They will continue to grow and they will continue to carry experiences with them that defined their future, but I truly pray last week marked their lives in the way only the Holy Spirit can mark someone. It is cloudy to see at times and this world makes it distorted, but they honored the sacred ground God created through their talent by simply being present.

As they finished the last song, the notes drifted up and away, and the Creole prayers that had been murmured the last few minutes became audible. Beautifully crafted and time scarred hands covered faces as the women who sat with us prayed. Church should not be bound by building, language or culture, and worship cannot be contained to lyrics and notes. As I caught glimpses of these women I love and deeply respect, they were worshipping at church as tears glistened in their eyes. God used these two teens to bring a random time of church into the sacred space of the widows and orphans living together at Leogane due to some version of being discarded, abandoned and victims of poverty in Haiti. Young or old, it’s the same classification of orphan that God calls us to champion.

The women gradually, and almost reluctantly, opened their eyes and started repeating in Creole, “I am very happy. Thank you. I am very happy. Thank you.”

Mustering every ounce of Creole I could, I launched into broken Creole, “They are happy, too. They wanted to bless you with their music.”

Immediately, the grandma sitting closest to us thrust her hands over her eyes to hide her face, yet glanced back at us with questions in her eyes.

“Why would they want to bless me? I want to bless them,” she repeated over and over again as her humility at the thought of her guests, in her home, wanting to bless her overcame her.

I took a deep breath before I translated it to the teens around me, because in those simple words that moment of worship became one of the most Holy moments I’ve been a part of in Haiti. Images of women in the Bible who were marked and healed by Jesus flooded my mind along with what they might have humbly said in Jesus’ presence.

The Samaritan woman at the well…“Who am I that he knows what I did?”

The adulterous woman awaiting the rocks to be thrown…“Who am I that he would stand up for me? That he would not condemn me?”

Mary as she used an expensive bottle of perfume…“Who am I that he would accept this gift from me?” While Jesus defended her actions with, “Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Mary as Jesus appeared to her after his resurrection…“Who am I that he would show himself to me?”

photoAs I translated to the teens, the startled look in their eyes was clear…what they had intended as a simple gift of music had turned into a moment in their young lives that they would have a difficult time putting into words or even pointing back to as holy. Each of their minds raced to think of what to say as the symbiotic blessing became inexpressible among us.

Who were we to be allowed to step into that Holy moment together?

Who were we to be honored with the presence of each other?

Haitians and Americans. Young and old. Sunk deep into, and marked by, a holy moment lead by the intense humility of one woman intensely loving and honoring her Savior.

 

 

 

refuge

There is this song I remember singing in choir. It had a great harmony and I loved the liturgical chanting beat. It was based off of Psalm 46…and before we go any further, allow me to answer that burning question in your mind. Yes, I was a choir nerd. I know, I know. It takes away any chance at ‘coolness’ I had, but it’s the truth, I was a choir nerd. I still hate that I didn’t get to be in chamber choir with my friends…but not everyone has a voice good enough to be THAT nerdy.

The lyrics of the song were confusing to me, because at that point in my life I wasn’t quite sure how this ‘God’ I couldn’t see, didn’t hear and certainly wasn’t ready to trust could possibly be a refuge and strength in trouble.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” [Psalm 46:1]

Honestly, at that point in my life, I definitely didn’t understand why I would need a refuge or strength in my life. Nothing hard had really touched me at that point, and I was in those blissful teen and college years of believing I was invincible. I was also stubborn and thought I really could tame the world by taking it head on. I was definitely not going to ask anyone for help, even if I did come across something tough, and I certainly did not need help from an abstract idea of God because I had enough strength in me to do it all.

Go ahead, chuckle. I know…I had a lot to learn, and still do. We are all in different stages in this walk with Jesus the Redeemer.

But in order to know the need for a refuge, to understand why scripture talks about refuge, we really have to know that desperate, gasping for oxygen need for escape, protection and sanctuary in our own lives. And that doesn’t come without extreme pain and your world being turned inside-out while spinning end over end.

We can fake it all we want and we can deny it all we want, but there really is something innate in us that longs to be protected and to find that place of refuge when we need it. Truly, the Holy Spirit makes that real and there are a million ways to feel that presence, but it all coincides with our willingness to surrender and merge our heart with God’s heart.

Tonight, as I write this, I think of the disciples in those days between their teacher’s death on the cross and his resurrection. They didn’t know the resurrection was coming. Their world really was turned upside down. The man they thought would finally bring freedom to Israel was dead. What a crazy emotional roller coaster they were riding! They were scared, mourning and they retreated to a place of sanctuary believing if their teacher could be put to death on the cross…they would be next, so they made sure to lock the door.

But after Jesus rose, and breathed the Holy Spirit on them, there was this contagious confidence in their belief and propulsion into the world. God’s Spirit in them made them unstoppable. They took the message out further than anyone probably thought they could. They told stories. They healed people. They spoke truth. They built communities of believers. All done with the power of the Holy Spirit, and the power of God’s story from the beginning of time that perfectly predicted every move Jesus made.

Most of the time we think of a refuge as being a physical place, but the safety and security of place is not always available.

What would happen if we started seeking refuge in the Holy Spirit?

The Spirit doesn’t always have to be a place of strength, more often the Spirit functions on weakness and surrender. We cannot technically curl up in the physical safety of the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit protects something more beautiful than our physical well-being. The Spirit claims and protects our souls, and the refuge we find there is invincible.

knowledge

“That night, God appeared to Solomon. God said, ‘What do you want from me? Ask.’” [2 Chronicles 1:8, MSG]

Wow. Anything? What would you ask for if God gave you freedom to request something from him?

World peace? A million dollars? A friend to finally seek God’s grace and love? Discernment? To be the most famous person ever?

There are a lot of Haitians looking for the letter ‘T’ on Prestige beer bottles right in a contest to get a free car. Would you ask for a car?

“Solomon answered, ‘You were extravagantly generous with David my father, and now you have made me king in his place. Establish, God, the words you spoke to my father, for you’ve given me a staggering task, ruling this mob of people. Yes, give me wisdom and knowledge as I come and go among this people – for who on his own is capable of leading these, your glorious people?’ God answered Solomon, ‘This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life. You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for – wisdom and knowledge. And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus – money, wealth and fame beyond anything the kings before you or after you had or will have.’” [2 Chronicles 1:11-12, MSG]

Solomon could have asked for anything. But God recognized Solomon’s heart when he didn’t ask for something frivolous. He wanted to honor God.

There is something here we can learn from when Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge. How many times today have you, sometimes subconsciously, asked God for something?

Perhaps, help me not strangle this co-worker, or maybe your kids? How about for a car to get out of your way because you are in a hurry? What about asking for more time in your day with a loved one who doesn’t have much longer to be in this world, or even that you find yourself too ‘busy’ to be with those you love? Maybe it is patience you ask for? Careful on that one, God tends to give you situations to grow your patience instead of actually just bestowing it on you.

I ask a lot for God’s voice to be clear and discernment to be what God needs me to be for those around me. I’ve also asked for wisdom, because who has enough really? We can always use more wisdom, but never once have I asked for knowledge. I’d never really thought about it until I read Solomon’s request a few months ago. Possibly, it is because I have a significant amount of faith in the Lord I serve, coupled with a relative easiness at the mysterious parts of God.

Solomon wanted wisdom and knowledge to lead well. I wonder at those who lead around me, if they frequently ask for wisdom and knowledge. In the areas I lead, I know I haven’t…and I cannot possibly be the only one who hasn’t asked.

Solomon didn’t lead perfectly, but he started out with his heart in the right place. None of us could ever lead perfectly, we all sin after all, but what characteristics of leadership could we commit to improving ourselves? Maybe it is wisdom and knowledge, but maybe it is in hearing the voice of God and discerning where the Holy Spirit would have you lead people.

Let today be a day you commit to having your heart in the right place…and if I end up failing today, in the uncanny tradition of David and Solomon…God will still love me tomorrow.

 

bless

I once heard ‘bless’ interpreted as the tangible touch of God, and it has been burned into my vernacular ever since. I just love the thought that we can feel God’s love for us through the blessings that pour into our lives every day, coupled with the fact that we could be a part of blessing others to feel that tangible touch of God. Beautiful cycle, right?

Several years ago, I first heard several folks in the Kingdom movement realm talk about acronyms they use for small groups to develop missional habits. Missional being that all we do and say alerts others to the reign of God. Michael Frost talks about ‘BELLS’ as Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn and Sent as a rhythm for small groups to adopt in order to have opportunities to tell Kingdom stories, as well as to hold each other accountable to living well within their Kingdom life. Frost says, ‘It is a really handy tool for mobilizing Christians up, in and out into mission. That is, up into deeper connection with the Triune God; in to a stronger sense of community with other believers; and out into the neighborhood. The fact is we all recognize the need to live generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christlike lives as missionaries to our own neighborhoods. We want to live our faith out in the open for all to see.’

Bless is rather straight forward in blessing three people throughout the week, at least one of whom is not a member of your church. And while most people think of a blessing as something monetary, it definitely does not have to always have something to do with money. It could, but more likely is the blessing of spending time with someone, doing something for them, telling them they are doing a good job or giving a hug when someone needs it.

What group of folks hates eating together, right? I’ve seen so many frustrations and tensions dissipate within a single meal sat across a table from others. Eat is intentionally sitting down to a meal with three people throughout your week, with at least one of them not being a member of your church. So many times I’ve heard folks say, “I really like the stuff you talk about and want to live more missionally, but I cannot add another thing to my full schedule. It’s impossible!” Eating with others adds nothing into the schedule, because you already eat three times a day, right? Which means all you are doing is choosing who will be across the table from you in one of those moments throughout the week.

Listen. I honestly think this one is so incredibly important, because when we choose not to listen to each other we are choosing not to learn from each other or respect the other person as a viable contributor to community. It is the same with the Holy Spirit, when we choose not to listen to the Holy Spirit we are telling God that we don’t think the Holy Spirit is a viable part of the Trinity in a world where it truly is the most active piece of God we have with us. The missional habit of Listen is choosing to give one period of your week to listening for the Spirit’s voice. That looks different for everyone, but once you choose to intentionally listen, you will be amazed at the things you hear and how you respond. As a Spirit-led person, the entire Kingdom becomes increasingly real to you.

Learn is a commitment to learning the characteristics, stories and things Jesus said to help us grasp a hold of our life with him. When you learn about Jesus, you tend to take on those traits as well…give or take an asshole decision every now and then…it’s no fluke that my small group that has been pouring into missional theology for three years refers to themselves as ‘recovering assholes.’ When learning more and more about the character of Jesus, we tend to also have a spotlight put on our sin and humanness as well. We are all in the process of being transformed, but without the commitment t learn more about the heart of God through Jesus, we have no example to spark that transformation.

Sent embodies action. Frost says that the habit of sent is committing to journal throughout the week all the ways you have alerted others to the universal reign of God through Christ, and it has a lot of different outlets. Know how to answer where you see God reigning through Christ. Is it in the beauty of God’s creation? Whether it is nature, music or art? Is it in how we treat others? Is it in how passionate you are about injustice in this world? What makes your soul sing in this world? What makes you most angry? When you look at the emotions you have surrounding a situation, at their core, does it go back to how God has uniquely created you to build toward his Kingdom on earth? What forward motion are you participating in to see God’s Kingdom come into its’ full power and restoration? Living sent is about alerting AND demonstrating the universal reign of God through Christ. It’s both together, not one or the other. When you commit to journaling when you see aspects of this habit in your life, you will more increasingly see how God has placed you to live sent.

IMG_6371When I saw these habits several years ago for the first time, I sensed that my community wasn’t quite ready to tackle all habits at once. So we moved forward in other ways, then last month when I sense this was the right time, each person was excited and had a certain aspect of giddiness at the accountability to live out what we’ve been talking and learning about for so long. I’m anticipating a TON of stories to be told over the next couple of months, and I cannot wait to see how God continues to move in us.

 

 

 

alone

I hate being alone.

I am certain I drive some of my friends and family crazy, because I don’t even like waiting in restaurants for other people to arrive. The only places I willingly sit alone are at Panera or Starbucks when I am reading, writing or working. But even then, if a friendly face stops by…the seat across from me is always theirs if they want it.

I love looking at the sky, from sunset to moonrise, I love every aspect of God’s universe that appears. Yet again, I hate watching alone. At night as I am winding down are some of the best conversation I’ve ever had with anyone. And as crazy as some might think I am, I refuse to actually talk to myself. During summers when our family is at the lake, one of my favorite things is to sit outside at night on the deck. My dad can outlast us all, but those moments together are memorable. Someone to sit in quiet nighttime moments and just be present within whatever conversation happens makes my heart happy.

There are times when I am good being alone. If God has me soaking in some scripture, I need to give myself the space to hear him.

If I need to decompress and could potentially take out a frustration on an innocent bystander…I probably need to take a drive alone for everyone’s safety.

Realistically, it is rare that I am able to recharge in moments alone. I need people. I need my community. I need someone who will let me process out loud.

But also, realistically, I probably need more time to be still, quiet and listen for the whisper of God alone. By myself…in scary silence. Even as I type it out I am cringing. I need noise. Even in the moments I find myself alone, there is normally music playing.

However the real question is do I need noise, or do I want it? Is there a point it becomes too much?

Things get muddled when there is a lot of sound and busyness. When I need clarity. When I need to hear God. When I need to make certain I am following the Holy Spirit…the noise becomes a distraction in my safety zone of having people surround me.

Surrendering myself to the voice of God and his leading gets affirmed within community, but I need time and space to discern that voice and leading.

IMG_6443On a rooftop in northern Haiti…all alone…seeking God and surrendering to that silence found a time with God soaked in poignance. The key is I forced myself to be alone.

And what is heard in those moments can be scary and freeing all at the same time. I know the road those moments lead me down and they are some of the most restorative, refreshing and exhilarating.

But I have to force myself to be alone…and sometimes I need a little accountability to not run in the opposite direction.

 

look

Last Sunday after church, several boys guided us to the new deck area that is open at All In One Family, each grabbing a hand and pulling us along into this mostly unexplored space of new, vast views for these short fellas. They immediately ran to the railing, curious at what made them go there first out of all the spaces to consider, I followed them. Each looked back at me, enthusiastically pointing at something they wanted to show me. Chickens, motos, cars, people on bicycles, the roof across the street going on a new Sunday school space for the kids and the man high in a tree collecting mangos elicited several giggles. There were new views and new aspects of life. There were never before seen angles of the everyday life surrounding them.2.2015 All In One Family

Consider the perspective of the kids…theirs is mostly ground level and, until this new space, hardly ever over the compound wall. They peek out the gate, sometimes ride in a car or bus, but never this bird’s eye view of their world. They can see far and wide. Instead of just seeing the moto drive by the front gate, they see it until it disappears down the long road. They can see out over the valley where Port-au-Price sits and all the way to where Petionville and Delmas can be seen climbing up the mountain. They can see the mountain ranges on both sides of the valley. Their entire worldview expands with just a few more steps carefully taken up to the third floor above their school classrooms. Imaginations ignite. Dreams get busted wide open. Perspectives are changed.

All as we look out in the vast area surrounding our life.

We have all had tunnel vision to a particular goal at some point in our lives. In a lot of areas tunnel vision is not only a healthy way to see, but very beneficial to the cause. There are a lot of churches going from a wide vast view of how to help in the world to a laser, tunnel vision viewpoint in the world. Going all in at one location and honing in on ministry there. I’m not starting that debate, because honestly I fall on both sides depending on how the Holy Spirit is leading a particular community. Following the Holy Spirit has never steered anyone to invest in a life that wasn’t meant to be invested in.

But tunnel vision can be deceiving. Different perspectives can be ignored and missed by focusing so intently on the end goal. Tunnel vision can make us blind in so many different ways, especially when it is not a Holy Spirit led endeavor.

But what if we allowed ourselves the space to engage the pureness and enthusiasm of seeing the vast, wide Kingdom that God is building? God’s Kingdom only knows tunnel vision to one thing, and that is seeing this world restored to its original creation.

What if we allowed ourselves to look out at God’s Kingdom and see something new?

What if enthusiasm for what we see was contagious to those around us?

What if we asked God for the Spirit to lead our eyes to look at the world as he sees it?

What if we really let ourselves look from an upper level view of God’s world? Where would God lead our eyes?

What if we took a cue from the kids and experienced extreme excitement at taking it all in from the third story view?

What would happen if we willingly sought out different perspectives in our daily lives that guide us to observe closely, pray intensely and move as the Spirit leads?

What I do know is that enthusiasm is contagious, and contagious is what draws people deeper into God’s heart for this world. Deeper into God’s Kingdom.

I want the sparkle in my eyes as I look out at the world around me.

I want to point out things that I am excited to show others.

I want to draw people into God’s perspective.

I want to look at this world as the boys were looking at their world last Sunday.