SPONSORED~~standing in the gap

IMG_7735It wasn’t until I began traveling to third-world countries that I realized exactly how rich I am. Like most Americans, I have a stable home, plenty of furniture and all the things I believe I need, two cars, a few pets, flowerbeds, and a yard to play in. I have a garage to shelter my vehicles that is substantially larger than many of the homes I’ve visited on the other side of the pond; homes that may house many extended family members. Most days I eat much more than just one meal. My meals include many varieties of things to eat. When the holidays roll around, I am surrounded by family whose inconvenience of getting here may be nothing more than a delayed flight. Presents spill out from beneath the tree into the middle of the family-room floor. As the urge to jump in to one of my vehicles and take a long road trip hits, I do just that with very little hesitation. I am a substantially spoiled, American woman. It’s true that I’ve worked hard for all that I have. It is also true that working hard doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be blessed with all that I have.

It has been a blessing for me to travel deep into rural areas in several countries on our great planet. The Bible says that the poor we will always have with us. It is a verse that on the surface seems to describe someone who is lacking in what we think they need. While working beside the people in these remote areas, I have discovered that it means a little more than that…at least to me. Much of my time is spent taking care of the things I own; it’s a large house and needs constant cleaning and maintenance, the cars are the same as the house…needy, the yard needs constant care and attention. If I am not working on these things, then I am working on ways to pay for these things. The American Dream!! All of that doesn’t exactly leave time for what is truly important…to me.

Those I visit lead a similar but different life. They rise early and do their chores. If they have a job, they go work a long hard day; making enough to possibly purchase a loaf of bread…a luxury.  If they are young and their family can afford for them to attend school, they attend. It is most likely that they do these things on one meal a day; the same meal they had yesterday and the day before. Fresh water isn’t running out of a tap. There may not be a toilet present in their home. The family members do not have their own personal spaces in their home. One thing that is true in the homes that I visit: God is present and powerful!! They KNOW that He meets every one of their needs. They praise Him immediately when they receive anything at all. When I arrive at their door, it is me they want to pray for. And in those moments, I see myself as the poor. Oh, I know that God meets my needs, but mostly I run out the door, jump into a vehicle and drive to somewhere and purchase them; without a second thought as to where they really come from. I do not really possess that conscious, dependency on Him the way I should. And when those with much less than I begin to pray, I wonder; do they know? Do they understand how much more of an awareness of God I need in the little everyday habits of my life? Do they look at me and see the poor of which the Bible speaks? Sometimes I feel as though they do.

I have had the opportunity to get involved in the lives of several young individuals around the globe. We call them our sponsored children, but really, they are so very much more than that. With our meagre 35$ a month, we meet their physical and educational needs. Is that what they share in their letters each month? No! Their focus is not on the money we spend on them, or the gifts we send. Their focus is on us, on prayer, on thanksgiving, on the awareness of what God is doing between us. Their focus, as well as ours, is on the relationship we are building. A mere 35$ is what bridges the gap between one country and another, between one family and another.

I am also a sponsored child. A price was paid for me. Someone stood in the gap in order that the gap would close so that I could have a relationship with someone whom I was very far away from. That price was much greater than 35$. That price cost a Father His Son. I can never repay that. He doesn’t want me to. What He cherishes is me allowing Him to be involved in my day, in all its happenings, in meeting all my needs. As I long to hear from my own sponsored children, He longs to hear from me.

Who are you standing in the gap for today? Who is standing in the gap for you?

 

(If you would like to sponsor a child, I can give you more information on how to do so. You will truly be blessed. If you would like to be the sponsored child of the Creator of the Universe, I can also help you with that.)

 

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WHAT LIES BENEATH (dig deep)

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So much of my time is spent on the surface….of everything. It seems that many of my friends have become nothing more than a status on a social media site. Many of the books I read are scanned quickly in order to hurry and get to the ending…and a new beginning. Activities are passed through rapidly just to get them over and done. When I study The Bible, often that study is me searching quickly through The Word looking only for an encouraging word regarding what I want God to say to me that day. When I meet new people, I don’t want to get to know them TOO well; I don’t want to learn too much about their lives. And so it is with nature. I walk her paths, notice her trees, her moon her flowers, her stars. But…what lies beneath it all? Why don’t I always want to take the time to dig deep into whatever it is that I’m involved with in the moment? Perhaps it’s because digging deep takes time, it takes commitment, it may require being inconvenienced, stepping out of my comfort zone, and putting forth effort and energy.

I recently visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Driving the highways from Texas to the Caverns, not much changes in the scenery. The terrain is flat and brown with very little to break up the monotony. About twenty miles from the national park, we began to notice the change. I wouldn’t exactly call them mountains, but we were definitely driving upward on a steep, narrow incline. After reaching the summit and parking the car, we stood in awe. From that location, I’m pretty sure the entire state of New Mexico, horizon to horizon, was visible. And it was beautiful! Little did we know, though, what lie beneath. Traveling with my dad who is 81 and my friend who…let’s just say that exercise is not her passion…we made the decision to take the almost two-mile stroll down into the earth. It was steep at first and no handrails were present as we trekked to the mouth of the cave. We pressed on anyway and spent the next couple of hours walking, resting, exploring, and discovering that there are some extremely beautiful things to be found deep inside a massive hole in the ground. My dad may have been out of his comfort zone, but I watched him persevere through the dark caverns and patiently waited for him when he took time to rest.

The entire adventure got me thinking of the other areas in my life where I tend to miss out because I lurk about on the surface; people, studying, God, nature, activities. People; they require time and commitment and often a great deal of being inconvenienced in order to dig deep into their lives and discover the beautiful person that they are. It may lure me out of my comfort zone as I walk with them through situations that I have never had to confront before. Studying God’s word, really studying it, conversing with Him, praying to Him to reveal more of Himself; these things require perseverance and vulnerability. They require a passionate endurance and a willingness to leave the comfort which I have become so accustomed to, and a willingness to not only know God more but know myself more. Digging deep with God can only lead to a huge adventure. It will require my faith to grow as I press forward with Him. Just as in the caverns, the path may be steep, it may grow dark, there may be hazards and obstacles along the way, but I know that He will be the light that guides that way and there will be rest. I know that He will lead me on an adventure more glorious than any I’ve ever been on before.

In all things, being willing to push past the feelings of  concern and fear, being willing to endure beyond the point of physical comfort and persevere to the end, being willing to  dig deep; this willingness will lead me to what lies beneath. No matter what it is, it will be beautiful!!!!

Wild Fig

If there are words to describe perfectly what nature does to the soul, I have not found them yet. Climbing trees; this is something every individual should experience for themselves. I grew up in New York, on The Island, thirty minutes from NYC. A dead-end street in a small town is where I called home. From the porch, one could see the forest across the road. Its name was known as The Woods. That title crept into many conversations; ‘where is your sister?–In The Woods.’  ‘Where shall we meet after school?–at the fort in The Woods.’ ‘Where have you been all afternoon?’–In a tree, in The Woods.’ And I had my favorite; tree, that is . That tree was tall, its trunk was one of the thinner ones, but its branches were thick and in the summer, one could hide well from anyone who should attempt to intrude. There were sixteen branches to be scaled before reaching those which made the perfect V. In that V, my back up again the supportive trunk, I found rest. In that rest, I was able to escape reality. I didn’t have to be perfect here. There was no expectation for me to be anything but who I was and who I wanted to be. All of my faults and imperfections, my mousy nerdiness, and even my knobby knees were camouflaged, lost in the sway of the limbs in which I sat.  Here I could dream of all of the endless possibilities that life would hold, that I could be. Here I drew the energy to become what others I told me I could never be. From my perch, I could see deep into the neighborhood. I learned the habits of those who lived nearby. I wondered often if they were happy; happy with their lives that seemed so dull, so monotonous in their daily routines. I could see my own home and could envision what those in it were doing; the same old, boring, everyday happenings. I wanted more, so much more than that. I often carried books with me to my perch above reality. The subjects of these books varied across a broad spectrum. Most of them were fiction. Each of them had a heroin, or at least a main character whose life mimicked the one I longed for.

That was many years ago. Life has taken me along on its many exciting adventures. Yes, there have been days of boring routines and monotony. It is in those moments and days that I dream of what might be next. As an adult, I have the luxury of setting goals and turning those dreams into my real-life story. Today, I still love the forest and long for days when I can hide in The Woods. I have not outgrown the desire to climb trees. Nothing has changed except maybe I don’t climb quite as high. I still love to observe others from above. I love the perspective that that brings. I look a little deeper into their movements than I did as a child, fascinated by the individuality of their lives.

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I climbed this Wild Fig tree on the side of Prayer Mountain in South Africa. It was the day after my mission team had been in a severe car accident and several were visiting the Clinic. I was intrigued by the complexity of its twisting branches; the way the roots seemed to hug the trunk as they reached up from the place where they also gripped the earth. Oh to be like them, I thought; to offer nutritional sustenance as well as life-giving hope all within the security of a great big hug. The freedom to be up in its branches meant even more than ever before. As I climbed, each branch welcoming me into the heart of this tree, peace flooded over me, laughter quickly filled my soul, and in just one fluttering of a leaf in the warm, afternoon breeze, my heart was at rest once again.

 

Nemophilist

With magnetic energy, it is the forest that draws me near, enticing me inward to explore its depths. As a trail head reaches my line of vision, my heart picks up its pace before my feet ever reach the entrance. There at the edge lies the promise of freedom through exploration. I often head into the woods with friends but I often long to visit alone. The forest is a craving that must be satisfied. Being indoors is difficult. It is full of distractions. I see the sun streaming through the windows, its beams dancing on the hardwood floors, and I ache to feel its warmth on my flesh. My lungs crave the exhilarating crispness of the winter’s air. My ears yearn to hear the crunch of the earth beneath my feet. And so I head to the woods taking only my thoughts along with a snack and a cool drink. It doesn’t matter the snack, everything tastes better when eaten outdoors. Almost immediately after passing over the threshold of the trail’s head, I get a sense of the treeline closing in behind me, sealing out the world in utter respect of my desire to be alone. My adventure begins. I stay on the trail, my eyes drawn to all that surrounds me; the rocks, each one unique, chiseled by the Creator…the leaves, no two the same…the trees, their branches twisting and wrapping and reaching skyward. All the while I keep one eye peeled ahead, the battle inside of me beginning. Do I wander slowly, observing each and every detail? Or do I speed up in eager anticipation of what lies just beyond the next bend? I settle for a steady stroll and let my mind wander. With no warning at all, those thoughts begin to pour from my lips, and as the gentle breeze catches them, they cling  briefly to the trunks of the trees. It is here in the woods, separated from the world and protected by the massive canopy, that I feel safe to release my secrets. It is here that I am free to take my time to search deeply within, to find what needs to be released and let it go, to discover my fears and seek the One Who can help me conquer them. Yes, it is in the deepest part of the forest that I find the Creator, my Friend. And as I walk, I observe, I listen, I breathe, I slow down, my heart softens, and my mind becomes more alert. All of my senses acutely aware; aware of His presence, aware of the life within the forest. Here i can lose my self, and gain more of Him. In the depths of His creation, I feel so small and yet so secure, for He is with me. Spending time in God’s creation with Him puts all things into perspective. I linger there with Him; nothing changes and yet everything is different.

 

 

ZERO NEGOTIATIONS

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God’s Word. There is power in It. Declaring His Word over your day invites His power in to the moments. It may not change the course of events, but it will affect how you handle those events; likely change the way you would have otherwise approached them. God’s Word, when spoken, must be responded to. When His Word is spoken, all things must pay attention to It. All things must obey It. When Jesus was alone for forty days with Satan, His only response too all that He was tempted with was the Word. The two did not get in to to any deep conversations or arguments. No. Jesus spoke scripture, and it stopped the devil in his tracks. With God there are no negotiations. He does not negotiate. He does not expect us to either. When it comes to His Word, it stands firm and true through and for all things.

Personally, I would like all of the things that God has in store for me. I don’t want to miss out on any of them. God says He has chosen me, He rejoices over me, I am His child, He wants all good things for me. Because I am His, He says I can approach Him confidently. I have no need to stand before Him and whine like a small child. I have only to approach Him, praise Him, worship Him in all that I say and do, and declare His Word over and in my life. I can search the Bible, seeking out all of God’s promises to me, and I can declare them for myself and know that they will not fail. His Word is good in all situations and has authority over all the moments. Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is active and alive and it is sharper than any two-edged sword. It divides the soul and the spirit, the joints and the marrow It judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart. It can not be ignored. It must be obeyed. It will not be negotiated with. I declare God’s Word over all of my moments.

BALANCED TREASURES

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What kind of heart are you harboring? As i stroll through my home this week, I am overwhelmed at how much stuff we have and annoyed at the kind of distraction it can become if I allow it. As i sat in silence before my Father this morning, His word came to me quite powerfully! “I want you to be blessed with a kingdom heart..to have a full understanding of what matters the most to MY heart..I want you to live a balanced life..one rich in contentment and in passion…not rushing through your day frustrated and bedraggled. I want you to live in love and to love well, to forgive immediately, and to give all that you are and all that you have..putting self aside. You have enough treasures to fill several houses: I want you to open your hands and hold them there. You are not to grasp them as your own. They are gifts from ME to be shared. Keep your hands open, always…grab nothing with them that you want more than ME. Keep them open in your relationships. Allow people to flow in and out of your life as I see fit. Cherish them as the gifts I intend them to be. Allow me to use them in your life..but..do not try to use them yourself..do not manipulate them to satisfy your own desires. Take your biggest dreams and put them in your hands and lift them up to ME..you may be too small to bring them into manifestation, but I am not. I can take what seems dead and breath life in to it. I can take what seems not much and multiply it beyond your craziest imagination. YES..live with a heart for the Kingdom…for ME…and watch what i will do” #whereyourtreasureis #god #myfather #passion #contentment #openhands #selfless

RELIEF FROM DISASTER

We can’t always help those things which happen to us nor do we always choose those things. We do, however, choose how we react to those things. In the not-so-distant past, Hurricane Harvey visited Houston. When Harvey came to town, he brought with himself 33 trillion gallons of water. For several weeks the news showed endless series of photos of the flooding and devastation. Thousands of people ceased their participation in their own busy lives to go and offer aid. It wasn’t long before initial cleanup began. Many teams deployed to begin the mud-out process, to bring food, personal supplies and clothing to those who had lost everything. My own team arrived on the 72nd day out. We set up in Spring, TX, a suburb of Houston. As we drove many of the streets, we had to search hard for any visible signs of destruction. As we began to delve into the 50+ stack of work orders, our vision was no longer blurred. Each day as dawn broke and we finished up breakfast, we grabbed our bagged lunches and loaded up. The neighborhoods we invaded bore homes that would be considered by many to belong to those at the very bottom of the lowest social scale. Working side by side with many of the homeowners, we spent hours gutting out these homes, pulling the entirety of their belongings to the curb, ripping out walls and floors; leaving nothing but the shell of what they called their home. No money, no insurance; they were lacking in hope. These people had lost everything and with nothing but their own two hands would soon begin to build their home. With these people we laughed, we cried, we loved, we learned, and we were humbled. What I learned is that no matter the country, the poorest will always be the ones who give the most. We arrived to work and these wonderful people would have brought us breakfast, they would attempt to buy us lunch, they would be so very humbled when we invited them to load up with us so that we could go find a working bathroom; apparently in the States we don’t just popAsquat wherever we are working, no matter the conditions. I learned as I observed their faces; the lack of hope in their eyes as we arrived in the morning quickly changed as the day pressed on. I learned that no matter man’s idea of social standing, we are all vulnerable to things out of our control, that if we link up with those who are hurting and hopeless, we can help them see the light in their future. I learned that it’s easy to look at those who have so little and think of them as poor. I learned, also, that if I am willing to turn my eyes inward, I can see just how poor I, myself, am. We are all lacking in something, and should not judge or condemn those who seem to have less than we do. I challenge you to seek out those in need, to work with them, to listen to them, and to learn from them. #poor #disaster #hope 23244029_10154785718377035_1351658387731539475_n

DON’T MISS IT

I stepped out into the cold this morning and my first instinct was to rush back inside..but for a moment I planted my feet and looked towards the sky. In the upward-reaching branches I saw God. So often we long for a sign from Him..we want to hear His big booming voice..we want a ‘burning bush’ experience..to see His writing on a giant billboard telling us what to do. He’s not human..He doesn’t necessarily speak the way we do. He’s confident in Who He is and has no need to be loud. But…He speaks. Through a flower, another person, in moments of joy, in inward, nagging uncomfortableness, in some new thing you’ve just discovered…in so many ways He speaks. Today..for me…it was in the branches of the trees; they didn’t form a cross…the clouds behind them didn’t gather to fashion the face of Jesus..but..in their unashamed nakedness..in their bent and twisted imperfect ness..they reached for the sky..reaching and stretching for their Creator. They did so yesterday in the warm, still air…they did so during last nights’s storm…and in this morning’s cloudiness, still they reach..for the One who sustains…who meets the need of hunger and thirst. The strength in their grace and beauty couldn’t help but capture my eye. In all circumstances, they do what God created them to do: to reach..to long..for Him. In this picture, I heard God: “Do that..in all circumstances and situations, just reach for Me.” Hearing God doesn’t have to be a huge, mysterious thing…there is no need to be straining to hear and see big miraculous signs and voices…just pay attention in the moments..in the little things…don’t miss the whispers of His still, small voice…just read His lips in all of His creation! #god #creation #hespeaks #stillsmallvoice #readhislips #dontmissit24253777_1367663763340416_730768241370071040_n

MOVE THE MOUNTAINS

What sort of faith do you possess? What kind do you desire? When life is going great and you are being blessed with all sorts of good things, do you jump to your feet and sing praises to His holy name? What about in times of tragedy? Do you shout praises equally as strong? Praising God and thanking Him can not be based on situations. We must recognize and remember that He is God over the good times and also over the bad times. We must not only show gratitude when things seem perfect or when we are receiving the blessings we WANT. We must also love with a grateful heart when we are receiving the blessings we NEED. And we must always remember that the actual blessing is God’s presence in all of our moments. Faith does not grow much in the good times. Faith grows when it is tried and tested and proves true. When it has been shaken to its very core by illness and death and storms and tragedies and after you have dug through each moment, every detail, the conversations; cutting through it all as a surgeon explores and investigates what lies before him. Doubts will rise as you navigate through it all. It’s okay. Our God is huge. He can handle your doubt. In fact, He wants you to wrestle with Him through it all. He wants you to grab a shovel and go deep with Him. Our Father does not want His children to be apathetic. He does not want them to lie in His lap like a rag doll. He wants us to rise up and approach Him confidently…not just with our praises but with our questions, our doubts, and our fears. He wants us to seek truth through Him. In Him we have a Savior who came to this world as a tiny and helpless babe. He came knowing all that He would endure. As our Shepherd, He would hunt to the ends of the earth for the one little lamb who was lost. He wrestled and triumphed over all of the demons of hell for you, His precious beloved. As our Groom, He loves us so much that He chose to die rather than to be separated from us. A passionate God who would go to such great lengths for us: i can only imagine how His heart must break at the shallowness of our faith.

Nothing sends my jaw scraping the ground faster than these words from another “I could never do what you do; I’d be to afraid.” And i think of the times that God has given me an order and I said those very words: I can’t..I’m too afraid. What exactly is it that we’re so afraid of? Consequences? Those very words must bring tears to the eyes of a loving father who wants nothing more than to offer more of himself to us…a father who wants the absolute best that he has for us. I challenge you today to rise above your fears. To desire a faith that grows much greater than a faith that merely says “It was a great day, Isn’t God good to me” I challenge you to dig soooo deep into truth that your faith can stand up and stay strong against all of the fiery darts of the evil one, that it can stand against even the most scholarly scholars who choose to challenge it, a faith that can face any tragedy and although possibly shaken a bit, does not fail. Get up into God’s lap today, be curious about what He is doing in your life. Grab hold of Him and don’t let go. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. He’s a mighty God who does things in weird ways. Ask Him about those ways. Ask Him to tell you things you don’t already know. Be passionate about what He is passionate about. Wrestle with Him. Today I choose a faith that can move mountains.

THE PATH

We are all urged to stay on our path: for some, their path is long and treacherous with many obstacles..for others, their path seems full of rays of sunshine and easy terrain. Each path is different..no two the same. If we try to walk a path cut out for another, we would surely not reach the end..we would not be physically/spiritually fit to complete what was designed for someone else. No..we MUST remain on the path God has laid out for us. One thing that is for certain, we will not walk it alone. Our loving Father holds out His capable and loving hand and entices us to grab hold and follow Him. Is there any sweeter walk, then a walk with The Father? I think not!! #path #walkwithgod #god   #leadmewheremytrustiswithoutborders #swazilandvillage 22857532_183170402247718_4651579405544456192_n_002