Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Unlikely Pedicure

My name is Viola. I lived a really long time ago and you probably wouldn't even know any of my relatives. I wound up in a very sinful lifestyle and was so engrossed in it with no conscience at all that it was so sinful. I was surrounded by a multitude of others who got caught up in the same thing - looking to lovers to prove my self-worth, acceptance and value. They all used me, got the best of the service I had to freely offer and most of the time I was never compensated financially for my harlotry. I mainly did it because I thought it was just what you did...and everyone around me seemed to be doing I convinced myself that I was right.  Over time, I was very self-righteous about my lifestyle, very arrogant and full of pride.  I was even convinced that Yahweh Himself must have been so proud to have such a loyal soul on a cause. One day I hit a breaking point. All my lovers began to leave me one by one and my world as I knew it crashed all around me. I was devastated and wished to die. I had no idea that a series of events was actually being divinely orchestrated to bring me to the True Lover. This strange Lover began to convince me of His unconditional love and acceptance. I started to sense that there was nothing I could do to pay Him or do for Him or give back to Him.  He accepted none of my bribes. I was so empty, lost and desperate I chose to believe what He was telling me. I followed Him around everywhere He went to teach; always staying at a distance. I always feared what others would think of what I was doing and what my true motives were. This one particular day, I saw him go into a certain man's house who was pretty well-to-do. As I peered in the windows, I could see that his house was immaculate and full of decorative ornaments. There were so many guests milling around, I could barely see the Teacher.  I wondered if I could just sneak in and crawl under the table without being noticed. I was desperate to hear more of what this Lover had to say, but mostly I wanted to thank Him in some way.  I had an old bottle of my finest perfume still tucked into my blouse, just in case I might need it to lure some affection and validation. My bottle represented all that I had come to depend on to get what I desperately needed - validation, approval and value. I can't believe I actually managed to arrange myself inconspicuously under the table right where the Teacher was reclining.  In my desperation, I didn't even notice the man of the house staring at me. I could feel whispers and destructive voices, but I'd often heard those in my mind.  I wasn't sure if they were real or imaginary. Nevertheless, I had to do what I had come to do. I was desperate to show this new Lover my extreme gratitude.  I unplugged the top of my vial of perfume and as soon as the familiar scent rose to my nostrils, the flood of memories of all my previous lovers overtook my emotions. I began to weep uncontrollably. Like incense lifting to the heavens, my pride, arrogance and self-righteousness left me. With extravagance, I let all the expensive perfumed oil pour onto this man's feet. My repentant tears mingled with all my perfumed sin, covering His feet.  Through my tears, I saw the dirt from His day's journey that had encrusted his sandaled feet begin to melt to the floor. My long hair that I had used many times over to charm my previous lovers, I now used as a towel to bathe His feet.  I noticed a new scent wafting through the rich man's house - a fresh, clean scent no longer emitting the old memories.  I lost all concept of time, having bathed both of His dirty feet with my oil, tears and hair.  His remark to the man of the house, hearing Him call someone by name, startled me into reality of where I was and what I was doing. "Simon, I have something to tell you," I heard Him say. It wasn't until then that I realized this man, Simon, had been watching me.  I don't know when I had been caught, but the Lover's voice distracted Simon's stares. I honestly couldn't tell you what happened next. I think I blacked out as the familiar fear of disapproval washed over me so vividly.  How could I get out from under this table? How can I make an escape while He has this guy's attention?  Realizing I had no where to go and no way out of this strange place of worship, I relaxed into the floor wishing it would open up and swallow me. Just then, when I was completely at the point of receiving whatever was going to happen next, I heard the Lover say to me as I felt His love-peirced eyess look right at me: "Your sins are forgiven. I accept your beautiful offering of worship here today. I know that you are full of much gratitude. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.  In that sacred, miraculous moment a peace like I've never known swept completely through me.

(To be continued....)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Sanctuary on the North Sea

June 17, 2013

The North Sea of Scotland

As far as my vision will allow me, I see midnight blue of ocean waters
And I glance down to the ancient stone I'm sitting upon, hues of brown - 
The sky is a light, but bright blue
The sun is above and yet behind me, warming my back
The white caps of the waves are here, there and over there
Gentle, yet sure, some splashing up stronger than others
Way in the far right distance I can barely make out the sail of a lone boat, almost as if it is part of my imagination
The beach is all but secluded
A pair over there, and another elderly couple back there
But I am all alone, secluded, solitary - and yet engulfed with Great Presence
For She is all around me, encircling me, protecting me, steadying my way with a Sure Foundation beneath me
The Great Spirit swoops down and lifts up again off the waters beyond me in the seagulls
They chirp happy, delightful thoughts and then back out of sight... for now

May the sun continually rain warmth upon my shoulders
May there be fresh and daily wisdom as gentle as the splash of the waves
May I know the depth, the width and the vastness of Love that is expressed in the blue ocean
May I learn to trust like the graceful, effortless glide of the egret, landing safely to the next place on life's journey
May I find strength and stability undergirding me like the remains of an ancient castle, refusing to give up
On this solitary journey, may I find comfort in the Great Presence surrounding me. 

Another couple dared to venture near me...sitting on the stones to my right...I didn't like it that they entered into my private ocean view. I like being here alone. The winds seems to have picked up a bit...I'm feeling a little chilly, even though the sun is still warming my back. I could be here for hours and hours. I never tire of this view, this scene, this smell of salt and fresh, clear air. 
The blue is striking. It's not turquoise, but it is a lovely blue. Oh I look to my far left and out closer to the water sit two fishermen on the stones. I don't mind them. They are far enough away and not watching me, judging me, accessing my presence here. They can stay on my beach. Yes, that is it. It is MY beach...or at least it feels like it is mine. I have never been on such an isolated beach. I am so use to colourful beach umbrellas and a long line of beach chairs full of chatty people.  Too many people. This is more right for me. Quiet except for the music of the waves and the occasional chirp of a passing seagull.  Even the few people here are quiet, almost as if this is a reverent sanctuary awaiting a silent worship service.  This was just for me this past hour on my beach on the North Sea. Here I don't have to listen to another or offer insight and counsel. Here nothing is expected of me or from me - I get to simply receive; take it in, bask in it, breathe it in. Breathe it. Breathe. Receive. Be refreshed for the journey. Allow new vision and creativity to be wakened within me. 

Thank You, Abba. Thank You, Lover of my soul. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Encountering the Divine in Glasgow

Encountering the Divine in Glasgow
June 10, 2013 - Monday

I'm in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. My intention was to have a day of solitary reflection and usually I seek quiet, contemplative places for that. However, I chose instead to start my day with a tour of the Kelvingrove Art Museum. I had not taken into account that perhaps there might be dozens and dozens of school-aged, chatty children on field trips. Even the cafe was chatty when I stopped for a cup of tea. Then there was the one server who whisked about back and forth in such a hurry, never quite picking her feet up so as to create this annoying sole-sliding sound across the floor. "Pick your feet up when you walk, Child", I wanted to say, but didn't.  I just connected my headphones to my cell phone and listened to some piano music to try to gain the ambiance I wished for.  After my tour, my soup lunch and tea, I decided to walk across the street to the "quiet park". Surely I could find a quiet spot there...only to discover more happy squeals and playing on the tall slide from the children.  When I finally sat down on a bench under a canopy of green leaves, the song of birds and the slight distant chime of church bells filled my ears. I read my Lectio Divina Scripture found in St. John's gospel and began to reflect on the scene he was describing. Still distracted, I decided I needed to find a wi-fi spot, have a glass of wine and sit with my classical music playing in my ears.  So, I walked...and walked...found the wi-fi spot and another cup of tea (no wine here). There in a different way I was able to hear God's voice speak through John's gospel. All the busyness and noise and chaos of our lives chatters on... much like my day today. But in every place I saw evidence of God's presence all around me. Even though I was alone, walking through the parks and trees and streets of Glasgow, I was not alone. Reflecting on Jesus' question "what are you seeking?" revealed that I was finding the very thing I was seeking, by simply following His lead. The words of the following song speak to how the disciples may have been feeling when Jesus asked them, "what are you seeking?" and then told them, "come, and you will see."

"Lord, I'm tired, so tired from walking, and Lord, I'm so alone. Lord, the dark is creeping in, it's creeping up to swallow me, I think I'll stop and rest here awhile. *This is all that I can say right now. This is all that I can give. This is all that I can say right now; this is all that I can give. That's my everything.* Lord, did You see me crying; oh and did You hear me call Your name? And wasn't it You I gave my heart to? Wish You'd remember where You set it down... This is all that I can say right now. (I know it's not much) This is all that I can give. This is all that I can say right now; this is all that I can give. That's my everything.  Didn't notice You were standing here...didn't know that that was You holding me...didn't notice You were crying too...I didn't know that that was You washing my feet. *  (David Crowder Band)

Often when I feel that God is distant, uninterested and not coming through for me, it is then that in reality He is right there in the midst of what I am going through. He is standing right there with me, holding me, crying with me and even caring for me, washing my feet.  Jesus is in the streets of Glasgow while at the same time in SC and even in the streets of Raleigh, NC.  So then I imagined John and two of his disciples standing on the corner of one of these streets here in Glasgow. Andrew was one of them. All of a sudden as a Man passed by them on the sidewalk, John spoke to them telling them Who that was: "Behold, the Lamb of God." So when they heard John say that, they took off following Jesus.  Sensing someone following Him, Jesus turns around and asks, "what are you seeking?" They called Him Rabbi (which means Teacher), which implies to me that they wanted to learn from Him. So they expressed their desire....named their desire in His presence with the following question, which answers His question: "Where are You staying?"  In other words, we want to learn from You, we want to go where You stay and spend time with You. I believe He knew their heart, read their minds, knew their desire, as if He had been the One who had given them that desire and so He answers their desire with: "Come and you will see."  So they came, they stayed and they stayed all day. Afterwards, they (or at least Andrew) were so impacted, Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus saying, "we have found who we've all been looking for."  And Jesus took one look at Simon and re-named him Cephas (which means Peter).  Jesus is always right here with us. He is always the One comforting...holding us...even when we don't notice it is Him. He cries with us when we cry...when we hurt....when we're tired. He is always with us, in us, for us. He is the Great Foot-washer.

Thank You for hearing my desire, Abba. Thank You for this solitary day. I feel as though You and I have walked through Glasgow together today. I've loved being with You.  In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Journey of Rhythm

Journals of Scotland

May 30, 2013

Arrived in Scotland at 2am my time. Very tired, but thrilled to see Sandi. After seeing her flat and having a cup of tea and a "wee" chaat, I went straight to the shower and & dived into bed. Slept for several hours. My ears/sinuses were so stopped up I could barely hear a thing when I lay down, but when I awoke, all was well and I felt refreshed. We ended up watching Ms. Potter, the movie about Beatrix Potter. What a great way to start this journey. Right after Ms. Potter was told they would reluctantly publish her book, not thinking much would ever come of it, she said to Peter Rabbit: "Well, we can't stay home all our lives. We must look at it as an adventure!" That's exactly how I feel. :)

May 31, 2013

Getting into a new rhythm doesn't just happen; I'm discovering you must participate.

I was almost frantic when I first arrived to get my phone situated to receive iMessages properly so I could stay in touch with everything at home as usual. In doing so, I realised I was not able to be fully "here".  The time change, the UK instead of the US, trying to not skip a beat between here and home....or rather, not coming out of one rhythm into another. It was like Sandi was having to wait for me to still "get here", even though physically I was here. Of course my body was slow to change rhythms, having to sleep for several hours before I could even think straight. Something deeper was calling me to participate into going into a new rhythm. Fortunately I noticed sooner than later what I was doing - and mentally, consciously I had to "come into" UK time. Sandi prepared us a dinner, we chatted and watched the Beatrix Potter movie (all trying to keep me awake) so that I could force myself to move on into this new rhythm. ANd then - I slept! All night! The sun came pouring in beneath the red window shade and it was 8:30am, UK time. To be fully present to the moment in time that God has me is the invitation. I can't try to keep one leg "back home" with all my involvements there. I must pull both legs over the fence to this present moment and fully engage in participation with what Father is doing.  Sandi and I are together on this "journey of rhythm" and I want us to get all of the "get" there is to be got from whatever Father has planned for us. Ok, UK time, I'm here now! Like Beatrix Potter said to Peter Rabbit: "We can't stay home all our lives. We must look at it as an adventure!"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Could you imagine being Joseph?

Could you imagine…..

Just the other day a good friend of mine witnessed the miracle of watching his newborn baby coming into the world. He told me it refreshed his perspective all over again on life and the amazing complexity of the birth of a baby. I have a picture of the baby just hours old. So, as I began reading through the first few chapters of Matthew, I can’t help but imagine the earthly father of the Messiah. Here we have the introduction of the King of kings being brought into the world and a simple, young man chosen to protect Him and His mother at all costs. Four different times in the first couple of chapters, we are told that Joseph was instructed by the Lord through dreams as to what to do next. Imagine this young girl, giving birth to the King, the Messiah and wrapping Him in His little blanket, nursing him. Imagine her young husband, Joseph, waking up from yet another dream and saying, “Uh….Mary….we gotta go again!” How was this guy so tuned in to the voice of the Lord? How did he know to drop everything he was doing and obey the voice of the Lord? Did he ever question? Did he get frustrated when his life was disrupted by another instructional dream? Did he ever wonder how he got in this predicament? Did he realize somewhere deep inside that he was part of a divine plan of redemption for the world? I mean, talk about moving around a lot? In less than two years, they had moved from Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Israel and finally settled in Nazareth of Galilee. How could he establish a job to support his young family with all that moving and re-settling? I wonder if he ever actually felt settled. I imagine his thoughts at times might have been, “I am so tired and need to get some sleep, but Lord, have mercy! What might you reveal to me in my dreams tonight?” I realize the culture of that day was quite different from the culture I exist in, but reading and pondering over this account has just caused me to really think about how attached I am to stability and routine and convenience. Let one thing throw a wrench in my routine and comfort and stability and I get all worked up. I want to be more like Joseph in his openness to the voice of the Lord. His willingness to follow and obey regardless of how unsettling it was is such an inspiration. His determination to protect his young wife and child even though it meant leaving behind whatever he may have started in way of a job. Their best interest was at the forefront of his mind, instead of meeting his own needs. After every dream, the Scripture says: “…and he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” I love how he chose to protect his young wife and her child regardless of how it changed any plans he may have had. His willingness to lay aside his own agenda to have his own needs met in exchange for what was in her best interest exemplifies his humility and security.

In looking back over the key, repeated thoughts I noticed how Matthew described Joseph from the start: “…being a righteous man…” The Greek describes righteous as one approved and accepted by God; one whose way of thinking, feeling and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. Lord, help me to remember who I am in You: righteous, accepted and already approved. I do not have to try to acquire acceptance from someone else when I already have Yours. Help me to remember that as I live out of Your acceptance of me, I can lay aside my own agendas and humbly treat others in a way that has their best interests at heart. I can trust You to meet my needs and lead me in the way You would have me to go. Thank You for giving us models of Your righteousness like Joseph. Amen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Does it have to be enjoyable to be good?

July 21, 2010

I’m tired and at this precise moment, actually feeling strong homesickness. Our time is drawing to a close and it is good. The whole experience has been good. Not always comfortable or enjoyable, but good. Sometimes when you are being stretched and challenged you don’t feel as though it is a good time. Especially when friends and family back home are asking the infamous question, “Are you having fun?” Trying to figure out how to answer that question is similar to knowing how to respond when the computer at Curves makes this statement: “Hope you enjoyed your workout.” Okay…so do they have to use THAT word? Anyway, my point is that something doesn’t have to be enjoyable or fun for it to be good. We still have a few other things that we are determined yet to do before our flight home. Tomorrow we are going to the British Museum, escorted by a former Muslim who is now a follower of Jesus and works alongside some of the World Harvest missionaries. Last week he was invited to participate in a debate against another Muslim and there were approximately 400 people in attendance. Most were there to side with the Islamic beliefs but there was a remnant of Christians in the mix. Anyway, this guy is going to go with us to the British Museum and give some knowledgeable information about what is on display. We are looking forward to that and feel like his participation in it will make it a lot more beneficial than just seeing what is there. We also want to try to locate a particular tea shop that we were told about. It is in the Covent Garden area, so we will try to navigate ourselves around to that spot. On Friday, it is our plan to see the Windsor Castle, be there in time to view the “changing of the guards” and also have our final Afternoon Tea experience at a place that some locals recommended. We may finish our final time here by having dinner with some of the World Harvest missionaries before packing our bags and getting a good night’s sleep at Joel’s before flying out on Saturday morning.

I know many of you have been following the photos and comments on Facebook and you have probably wanted more notes like this one. However, it just isn’t easy to take the time to write out my thoughts and post them. The timing of how our life is scheduled while here, the non-consistent access to internet, the time it takes to process just what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing all makes it difficult to give family, friends and supporters back home a good picture of what an experience like this is really like. Thanks for your interest. Thanks for your support in so many ways: financial, emotional, prayer, thoughts, etc. All of your support is felt strongly by the team and we really appreciate it. Whenever you hear a missionary say that they could not do this without you, it is true. Whenever a missionary tells you that you are here with us, that too is true. So, in reality we are all missionaries. Some of us go, while others stay home. But in whatever way you are supporting a missionary, it is vital and we share a common bond. Let me just make this one final note about support. If you had wanted to support any one of us on this team and just let it slip your mind and feel like it is too late, it is not too late. The expenses are much higher here than any other place I have personally been, so please feel free to share in whatever way God leads you. Grace Community Church is still accepting support monies for this mission and they are handling all of that for us. (The address is: 495 Cardinal Road, Mills River, NC 28759.)

We will be scheduling a time to share our experience for those of you who really are interested in hearing more details. We will be informing you of the date, time and place. Continue to cover us in your prayers.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday in India

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I think it is Sunday….or is it Saturday?? I honestly have no clue. But I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it? The team has been quite busy between teaching the conference and visiting the children’s home. There really are two separate opportunities for ministry to happen for us here. The children love it when we show up where they are. The first time we met them, they were brought to the local KFC for dinner. We were there already waiting for them. As they all filed in, their faces were gleaming. Beautiful, intelligent and respectful faces. They were so happy. Dr. Anjuli Nayak has created this home for them, each one representing a family where both parents have died. This particular children’s home only accepts “true orphans” and apparently a child left with no living parents is what that means. There are a total of thirty three of them . We brought them each a new pair of shoes, games, books, movies, clothes and jelly beans.

The Galatians conference began on Friday morning with approximately 200 Indian pastors and students from villages as far as 100 miles away. Their enthusiasm and charisma was refreshing. To watch them soak in the teaching of the Scriptures all day long amazed me. Often in the U.S. we think an hour and a half long class is the maximum anyone could expect us to sit through. These men and women studied for hours, took a lunch break, and came back for more teaching the rest of the afternoon and into early evening. By the time we finish this conference tomorrow afternoon, we will have worked our way through the entire book of Galatians. Then on Wednesday, we fly off to Varanasi for the second conference. We have been told by numerous local people that Varanasi is a very “religious” place. By this, they mean it is over 70% Hindu and the rest mostly Muslim. There are over 200,000 idols in the city and it is the location of the Ganges River where people go to die. They believe if they die there, they go straight to heaven. So, we go to this place on Wednesday of next week to begin sessions on Thursday.

Getting to a place where we could access the internet has been impossible. Between the locations we are staying in and our crazy schedule, it just couldn’t happen for us. Right now, I have one hour of internet access which I was finally able to acquire, but I am so sleepy, I am not sure how much I will get done. All in all, it has been a good trip. There is so much to tell but not the time right now to write it all down. I am taking pictures on my phone and trying to post some of them on Facebook. It seems my phone can take me to that sight as well as bring in my emails. Other than that, my phone is useless.

Once again, trust has been the biggest challenge for me. Trusting Jesus that He has a reason for my being here in this place for such a time as this, trusting His provision, and trusting Him to speak through me to the ones I am teaching. Today was my first time to teach here and God came through as He always does. I had so much fun interacting with God’s people here. I am exhausted tonight, but it is a good exhaustion. I’ll write more later.

(By the way, living here gives a whole new meaning to the expression “Holy Cow!”)