Friday, December 26, 2014

What dreamers do

We start.  We start dancing to the inner design that we know and love.

This place will soon be a site of memories.  God has birthed a new blog in me that has been a long time coming.  It's not that I want to leave you here though, I want to take you with me.  If you have the time to see what's going on with me, hop on over to this place and follow in the journey with me.

It would mean a lot to have company in this new free place that God has uncovered.  I'll explain as we go, but since time is short just come on over...

Happy Christmas blessings!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Light trumps dark in one small African community

I swallowed hard to choke back the tears of what I had just witnessed.  The place was Section 19, Swaziland, Africa.  The year was 2011, my first mission trip to Africa, and God was revealing many things to me in every stop, and at every work of our hands.  We saw many pains, hurts, smiles, joys and tears on that trip.  My view of God exploded within my heart to a measure that I had never seen before.

The love of Christ, when expressed in the sense of true compassion, always goes further than you think and leaves a lasting imprint on all those His power touches.  What I didn't realize then was the endurance of His love that transforms a community after you come back home.

God's power remains when sown and planted.

This particular CarePoint that had just been established in the middle of the sugar cane plantations in Swaziland.  The dark culture in that small two block wide community was palatable.  The heaviness of oppression was felt within every fiber of my being.  It was a squatter camp with abject poverty oozing from each mud hut threshold and every dirt doorway.  Poverty showed no mercy except in a corner of the lot.  A new feeding program established there.

This faith project had been activated by the prayers of many.

The team walked slowly to greet the down trodden with all the smiles we could muster.  My mind raced with questions.  "How do you raise children in the middle of this?  How can kids play in mud huts and broken spirits?"  How could a mother wrap her love around all the animosity that was felt there?"  "Where do they see hope?"

My strong questions demanded answers but my weak, broken heart had none.

The team stopped and I looked down to see a naked little girl sitting in dirt, staring wide-eyed and hungry, as if she was in a trance.  All of time stood still.  I couldn't move. I was paralyzed by fear, and as I looked deep into her big brown eyes, hers locked on mine.  I saw a reflection of the emptiness of my soul.  I swallowed hard and wanted to bolt.  Frozen in time, I couldn't even raise my arm to capture the moment on my camera.  I just stared as if staring would deliver her from that place of squalor.  

As if I could do something, anything, to love her like she needed to be loved in that moment.  My momma heart broke further.  I saw the face of my grandson, Avery, and then everything went blurry.

God was counting my tears in that moment.

A holy spotlight shone down and God quieted my spirit and my raging questions.  He whispered, "These are my children too, love them as I love you."  My heart, by what was strung together by a thread, snapped.  Anytime you hear His voice is changes you.  That's when I knew that Africa would always call my name.  This place was desperately hungry for God.

Teams bring the love and light as they show God's mercy and kindness to those who need love and care so desperately.  We are carriers of God's light and love to all we meet, there are so many love-hungry people in need.  I was one among them who needed God's love and care to put my perspective back together.  I heard Him loud and clear, "This is my family too."

I was overwhelmed by the light and power of His voice but remained fearless when I saw God's light emanating from the new CarePoint there.  I saw it glowing, gleaming in the sun with it's new coat of paint, absolutely stunning, shiny and most definitely a bright spot in a dark, dim corner of Swaziland.

I was encouraged by the Light that the psalmist David wrote about dark places once I returned home.  Psalm 132:15-16  "I will bless this city and make it prosperous; I will satisfy its poor with food.  I will clothe it's priests with godliness; its faithful servants will sing for joy.  Here I will increase the power of David; my anointed be will be a light for my people."  I thought back to the moment I crouched before that small child and received the annointing from God to pray for an increase of God's power and light from that day forward.

This small plot of a African community has such a big presence of God.  I was always stirred that it didn't have a name like the rest of the CarePoints that we had visited.  So I prayed over a new name for the Light we carried there.  "God give it your blessing of peace and love to those little ones that look to you to for hope, for food, for the love that they are needing.  Give this place your name, Lord, your blessing of favor and mercy."

From that first Africa trip,I have continued to carry God's light everywhere I go by the name I was given by our team translator.  She spoke a SiSwati name over us as evidenced in the teams strengths in us throughout the week.  My given SiSwati name was prophetic.  You may have noticed my different "middle" name on my Facebook profile is "Khanyasile" which means "bringer of light" or "has light shining".

Jesus teaches about being the light wherever we are.  Matthew 5:14-16  "You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

The Light of the Gospel shines bright wherever it goes.  It floods the dark places and powers the weak, feeds the hungry, and reaches the least, the last, and the forgotten.  God's light trumped the dark parts of Section 19, now there are many communities glimmering with Hope.

Fast forward to December 2014, God answered my prayer for a name for the feeding site.  My dear missionary friend, Mitch Hildebrant, messaged me with the most exciting news.  Section 19 had a name, and is now known as "Khanyasile".  This news came right before I was due to leave for Africa to celebrate Christmas with kids in Swaziland.  On that Tuesday,  Mitch and his crew were singing and dancing in celebration of the new name "Khanyasile" with the kids at Section 19.

Also on Tuesday of my week in Africa, just several miles away while in Swaziland, my team was singing and dancing with kids in celebration of the Light of the World has come down for Christmas at the Christmas at the CarePoint parties.  I am amazed how Light births light and multiplies it in a powerful way.  What a beautiful partnership of so many bright futures for many kids this year!  Only God knew the timing of these two celebrations evidenced by His brilliant provisions!

The light of God's love is a big topic to tell but it's easy when our hearts swell with His Love that brings Light!  Such a good word to speak everyone!

Thanks to the churches of Beach, North Dakota who have truly sent and supported God's light in the Khanyasile community. Their support have also birthed two well run preschool programs to seed more light with bringing the gospel to so many children and enhancing their education, as well as feeding hundreds of kids. Truly God's light and favor has rested on this once dim and gloomy place.

Mitch had this to say about the impact:   "We watched as previously drunken men in the community who used to harass us and shout at us now stopped, took their hats off and said 'thank you for caring for our children'."

Evidence that God's Light and Love are definitely alive and active in a once hopeless and uncaring place.
God's arresting Light trumps darkness every time.

There's a peace that God comforts your heart with after being wrecked by poverty.  I am always changed by God's genuine disclosure of truth when I see my own poverty through the lens of someone else's.  It is true today, no matter where you are in life when you encounter the Light of Christ, as it meets with your dark parts of your story, "Remember this is where the healing begins, where the light meets dark, when you come to where you’re broken within." ~ Tenth Avenue North.

Let God enlighten your world, lighten your load and be the Light for all the world to see.  His Light and Hope changes lives!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gasp! My grandmother never said this!

My grandmother, rest her soul, would shudder in her grave if she knew I was about to address this Christmas greeting. There are so many misconceptions when it comes to Christmas traditions. I find it interesting in our man-made celebrations of something holy we don't know really why we do what we do except what traditions have taught us to do.  

Somewhere jingling all the way, we assume that those who have gone before us knew what they were doing.  Do we fear crossing the traditional line of annual holidays to discover their original meanings?  

Gasp.....Merry Xmas!  Now before you stop reading on for a thorough explanation of what this salutation really means.  I know...I know...I'm really pushing the "Keep Christ in Christmas" protest line now aren't I?

Xmas is often veiwed as offensive and an exclusionary term to remove Christ from Christmas. You see this term used in secular circles and marketing campaigns that imply the creator of the slogan or sign maker was probably in a hurry, didn't know how to spell Christmas correctly or just wanting to abbreviate our beloved sacred holiday.

The truth is, saying Merry "X-mas" doesn't defame the name of Christ. It actually includes Christ in Christmas. You won't find Xmas in the traditional worship songs and carols for sure. I've hardly even seen it advertised this year.  Why, even the greeting card companies have changed their language to print "Season's Greetings." Now isn't that just an all inclusive and confusing way to acknowledge a sacred act of our Divine Being coming to earth to save all of mankind?

"Xmas" is most associated with a focused slant towards materialism, with verbiage that slaps our cultural and religious rituals in the face with disgust. But what does it really mean?

I think you will find this as a fascinating and yet, quite interesting explanation:

First of all, the abbreviation predates by centuries. "It was first used in the mid 1500s with the "X". In the Greek alphabet the letter stands for “chi,” as the first letter in Χριστός. But the real clincher to this Christmas juxtaposition is that Xριστός means “Christ.” X has been an acceptable representation of the word “Christ” for hundreds of years. This device is known as a Christogram. The "mas" in Xmas is the Old English word for “mass.”   In the same vein, the dignified terms Xpian and Xtian have been used in place of the word “Christian.” ~ excerpt from

Looks like the Greek writers might have just been a little enamored with the flexibility of the letter “X.” 

Dear X, you might own Christmas after all.

Unfortunately, the very same letter can represent many negative things such as a movie rating, a medical diagnostic machine showing a break or tumor, and a tool used by the all- powerful Transportation Security Administration experts to examine all things luggage, including the inside and outside of you. X even stands for a infamous entertainment system that attracts all men under and over 12, the Xbox game system.

So you see used in the context of Christmas it was the Greek who really wanted to include Christ in Christmas in a most ingenious way.  Maybe they were trying to send us some secret code to Christmas, bringing the signs and wonders of a child-like faith using letters and symbols.  

Like it or not, I still think it's a greeting my grandmother wouldn't say. On this point of keeping Christ in Christmas, I say why put confusion in a word where confusion already exists. At least that is one way to look at it, otherwise to use the X or no X, I'll leave it to the Greeks.  So Xmas can also mean Christmas; but to clarify it's meaning we could say 'Christmas' rather than 'ex-mas'!

Say what you mean and mean what you say!  Merry Christmas!

Are there some greetings you avoid to keep from using as to not offend?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Savor the favor

Christmas season brings a lot of waiting for many children.  And it builds excitement in their little hearts as to what is laying under the tree, wrapped so neatly.  Excitement comes in big and small packages.  Such mystery and surprise in each gift.
When the long awaited day arrives, it's a flurry of fun and chaos.  Worth the wait.
How many times have we waited for something and then when we actually received what we waited for it was less than what we expected?  Or, how much we appreciated a gift more because we had to wait for it!  There are many rewards in the place of waiting itself!
Waiting can really prepare us for the best that’s yet to come, with a hope-filled attitude or alienate us to a long season of loneliness, sadness and deep depression.  In our attitude of the advent, it's a choice to see the hope of Heaven and how His hope helps us wait.
Mary was filled with hope.  She patiently exemplified waiting in the growing months of mothering.  As a woman carries new life inside, there is more attention to the details of the growing baby.  As a new life is nurturing on the inside, God swells our love in a spiritual way too.  
Our trust always grows through the faith of life's throes.
Consider the normal development of human life.  It takes nine months gestation to grow a baby to sustainability outside the womb.  Consider the wonderful development of the human body, the brain, blood cells, nerves, tissues and all the connecting interweaving fluids, sinews and bones.  It leaves this mother of two in wonder of how God intricately designed each and every one of us with His special design.  God designs our inmost parts as He weaves in us togetherness with His holy image.
Ever wonder why Mary was chosen to be the mother of such a divine newborn?  Look at Mary's attitude from a heavenly perspective: she was so young, innocent, and highly favored.  How did she gain such high favor?
Her heart's attitude of gratitude.
Baby news changes the climate of a family, and that of newlyweds.  There are so many changes and adjustments to living with a new person, not to mention two new people, with one being totally dependent for every need.  As a new mom, it's hard to feel significant in those days that bring the same routine of eating, sleeping, cleaning, caring for, and nurturing a baby.
Yet when the Lord knits our inmost parts, He sees us as His vessels to do what He has patterned our inmost parts to do.  It's in our spirits that greatness is born, God's grand potential for us grows in us as we grow in our trust in Him.
A common sign of growth in a mother's abdomen while pregnant are the stretch marks that mark her skin's expansion to accommodate the increase in baby's size and weight.  In waiting upon the Lord in our spiritual growth, there are often spiritual stretch marks that He imprints upon our lives.  They mark us with grace and favor as we grow in our fear and knowledge of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
We have growing pains as teenagers, and we can have spiritual growing pains too when we wait for God's grand plans to unfold.  The moments seem endless, but the wait is worth it when He births His greater plans.  He births His perfection in us as He develops our faith.
Our obedience shapes our hearts in a right attitude to submit or surrender to God's perfectly timed plan.  Honestly, don't we long to get a glimpse of God to know that He is near us and helping us?
Yes, to be known, fully known, as God knows us is the true measure of our soul's longing.
As we wait for the day when the Lord returns again, let's not miss the holy moments in the waiting for God's growing plans.  He speaks to us in the sunrises, the sunsets, the smiles of babies, and so many grips of grace.  He favors us in His forgiveness and mercy.  He thinks of us constantly.  So much so, that His thoughts outnumber the grains of sand on an endless sandy beach.  His attention to our details finds me grateful.  When I think about how the Lord has favor upon our lives as sons and daughters, my heart can't help but respond in gratitude. 
Everything He says and does is out of His deep love and favor for us.
Be grateful for the favor God has bestowed upon us, it makes the wait worth it.  The real meaning of Christmas prepares and shows us the Christ child, the King and Savior of the world.  As the attention to God's details take center stage, His gift of Love is weighed in our hearts.  We want to know Him more, adore Him with purity of heart, and worship with Him with gladness.  May our attention on Christ be given to the One who bleeds through eternity, and brings hope down to us.  So distinctly clear … deeply, intimately, profoundly drawing our hearts toward our eternal home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Are you asking God a big question?

There are some of you asking some big questions of God right now.  Maybe you have a lot of unanswered prayers like Zechariah and Elizabeth did.  Read their story in Luke 1.  It's a beautiful telling of God's answer to their life-long prayers.  
We tend to think that God only uses the devoted, the pastors, the international missionaries, the gifted or the talented to carry out His plans.  We forget that God uses all of us who are just submitted to Him.  God wants our availability more than he wants our abilities.  
Zechariah and Elizabeth waited a long time to become parents.  They thought it would never happen, Elizabeth was considered barren.  I would like to assume they never lost hope in the dream of becoming a mom and dad, but I bet there were some discouraging moments that held doubt and worry.  We have a lot of stones that roll into our doubt-filled days when we don't see God acting on our prayers that we have laid before Him.
God, do you care?
God, do you hear?
God are you there?
What do these question have to do with waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ?  In those silent words to God, in the silence we feel, in the silent nights don't we want to lean in and listen for God's whispered answers?  We want understanding, we want purpose to end our pain, we want put an end to the endless wondering and the quiet of our days.  
God's silence is sometimes awkward and void of life.
We want God's gifts but we don't worship the Giver.  We forget to praise Him for what He has already done for us.  We tap our toes at God as we look at our clocks, puff and sigh for His perfect timing to travel at the speed of sound.  We look to Him for answers but we don't pray like we believe He is our answer.  We think God will run out of blessing before He gets to us.
We become impatient and spiral into thinking He doesn't love us.  We move from a worship attitude to an entitlement attitude.  Our guilt and shame fill in the silence, which veils our hearts from seeing God at work, and robs us of simple trust in God who is always on our side.
Many times in the re-direction God brings His protection. 
The birth of John the Baptist was perfectly timed.  John, being the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, had an important role as the one who prepared the way for Jesus to begin his ministry.  John, baptized Jesus in the Jordan river and experienced the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit in a refreshing way.  He had to have heard the audible voice of the Father, who was pleased with what was happening that day.  John's ministry prepared the people to receive Jesus' ministry.  
First John, then Jesus.
We wouldn't have been ready for Jesus if it weren't for John.  Why do we fear the worst from God when we don't hear from Him?  And why are we so eager to pray away the very life circumstances that teach us the most about who God is?
When Zechariah received the news that his wife would bear a son, one who would have a wide-reaching ministry, one that will "ready a people prepared for the Lord", that shows high honors and a wide reaching plan for the gospel ministry that still continues today! 
What do you feel God is preparing you to do?  Are you making more margin to seek God in your preparing?  Do the silent days bring fear of man or fear of God in you?
Give God room to work in your life.  One way is to not assume that he's forgotten about you, or has left you hanging.  God doesn't dangle your dreams in front of you and then say "Oh I was just kidding about yours!"  No, our God loves to see you dream, to see you hope and when we have all our faith in Him to accomplish those dreams, that gives Him great pleasure.
"God knows where to find you to use what He has put inside of you." ~ Steven Furtick. 
God can't forget about you, He can't forget about His loves.  Ask God to reveal His great love for you and you too will be in awe of His revelations of how much and how wide His love is for you.  He is deeply jealous for your love and adoration.  Let your hearts prepare Him room to work in ways that only He can do in you and through you. He has already displayed His heart for you.
God listens.
God is doesn't delay His best for you.
God is with us.
May He find us in awe and wonder of His working power and grace-filled silence.