May 30, 2011

Experiencing Compassion

As I read the latest post this morning from the Compassion bloggers in the Philippines, I recalled what stirred my heart when I first became involved with this ministry and the joy of taking a step of faith on behalf of just one.

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This experience began during a season of brokenness… a time of nothingness in every sense of the word.  Not only was life not turning out the way my husband and I had hoped, it had imploded unexpectedly all around us and there seemed to be nothing left but ashes.  Ever been there?

I sat in front of my computer looking at the beautiful faces of impoverished children a world away from me.  So much need. I wanted to sponsor them all!  How could I even sponsor one?  I felt overwhelmed...  small...  and absolutely lacking.

I could not deny the burden God had placed on my heart for these children, and yet the reality of my personal limitations loomed larger than my heart.  Practical wisdom seemed to be saying there's no way;  you simply cannot do this.  Maybe you shouldn’t do this.  But as I prayed I heard, “Will you trust Me?”  It did not make sense.



Fast forward a few prayerful weeks . . . 



I can't tell you it made any more sense, but we were sure this was the right step.  My heart smiled at the faces peering back at me from the Compassion International website.   The five children who shared our daughter's birthday looked back at me, all of them smiling except one. 

She stood hands on hips, frowning, posed defiantly as if to say, "What are you looking at?!"  There was something in that look that I identified with during this time, and I knew she was the one.


When I clicked the button and filled out the form to become Estefani's sponsor, my heart overflowed with an indescribable love for a ten-year old girl I had never met! 

God infused me with His love for this child who lives on a different continent, in a country and culture that, at the time, I knew nothing about; in conditions I will never fully comprehend.
  
 As I wrote letters telling her how much God loves her and that He has a good plan for her life, these truths resonated in my own heart. When I told her what a beautiful treasure she is to God’s heart, I heard Him reminding me of the same.  

The ashes began to shift.   

I started this sponsorship journey thinking I would be a help to someone else.  In the process, God brought healing to my wounded spirit and bruised heart as I began to pour out His love to someone else during a time when I needed His love the most.   I am amazed at the reciprocity of His mercy and compassion. 


The more I love the way He loves, the more I am loved, and can love.


~de

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Estefani was our sponsored child for 8 months.  Her project in Peru closed and she departed the program.  I only had a short window of opportunity to sow God's love in her heart through prayer, sharing scripture and writing words of encouragement.  I still pray for her and her family.


May 27, 2011

Old House, Old Barn

Today's post is a guest contribution by Judith M. Rosenboom whose love of playing with words I deeply admire. The following piece was inspired as she watched a neighboring farm yield to the demands of a new section of highway.

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"Progress"

Old house, old barn, grotesque and weak you stand
No longer brave against a summer storm.

Trembling, as men with pick and axe your plight make known
Strip planks of wood as beasts tear flesh from bone.

Closing In
Photo by Brenda Hollingsworth
Through skeletal loft BEAT ON relentless rain!
There was a time no entrance you could gain.

Barn . . .
Past defender of spring life . . . harvest grain.


Going...going...
Photo by Brenda Hollingsworth

Through house sides torn, oh wind, blow strong.
This privilege you have never known.
For house, then home, a refuge dear
From fate's ill winds stood firm, secure.

But as in the course of time when weak submit
That strong be stronger still,
For progress' sake, old house, old barn,
You, too, this role fulfill.

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Photos copyrighted and used by permission. Enjoy Brenda's photostream here. 

May 21, 2011

Some Squirrels Are Nice

Out of the blue, my three year old grandson blurted what must have been to him a very important piece of information.  I thought he was engrossed in a kid flick about robots on a spaceship, so his totally unrelated announcement puzzled me.

"Some squirrels are nice," he stated. 



Who...me...??
Photo by Brenda Hollingsworth
 
I laughed, and his little face puckered soberly as he further defended his thoughts with an exasperated little grunt.

"And some birds are nice to squirrels."  

I realized his bruised feelings needed a little soothing.  "Why, of course, some squirrels are nice," I told him.  His face brightened in agreement, and we spent the next several minutes in a rabbit-trail conversation about good bird manners and proper squirrel behavior.    

Okay, so how in the world does a preschooler come up with a measurement for the degree of "niceness" in the character of a squirrel?  It's not like he overheard one of them saying 'please pass the nuts.'  Maybe he saw a scuffle between one of the squirrels and the blue jay that bullies our backyard, and his little mind thought . . .


~Some nice squirrel.      ~Bad bird.



Steller's Jay
Photo courtesy of Brenda Hollingsworth



Perhaps he watched a robin join forces with the squirrel to fight back against the blue jay, and amidst all the chittering and scolding and chirping he thought


 ~Some nice bird.    ~Bad bird.   ~Good squirrel.


Looking for spring
Photo courtesy of Brenda Hollingsworth

Or…. maybe he watched the flurry of a rowdy chase and scramble and decided the squirrel instigated the whole ruckus after all, and all the birds were innocent.

~Nice bird.    ~More nice birds.   ~Bad, BAD squirrel!!!


Oh, no.  Now I'm getting an image. 

Can't you just see him?  He's a cocky little tree-rat leaned against a branch, sporting a trench coat tailored to perfection and complete with a slit in back to allow for his puffy tail.  Smoke from a little stogie curls upward past his dark shades.  Up it snakes over the brim of his little fedora as he gives me a dismissive nod before attempting some shady deal on last season’s nuts……

Oh, my…. conversations with three year olds are the best!


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Photos by Brenda Hollingsworth. Copyright. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Please check out Brenda's photostream by clicking on the links.  Her work is AMAZING!!  
Thanks, Brenda for letting me use your pics to illustrate this post.  ~De

Revised excerpt from my original title, "Good For A Grin", July 20, 2009

May 19, 2011

"To Be" -- That really IS the Question

I attended an excellent training event a couple of years ago, and the keynote speaker was one of those rare gems that captivated the room from start to finish.  During her wrap-up she inquired, “Remember when you were a kid and someone asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ … How did you answer?”

The room was silent, but after some mild coaxing people began to shout out,  “A teacher…   astronaut...   doctor...   a lawyer…   fireman...   baseball player...  rock star…   a mom …  a nun”… and on it went.

After a few minutes of good-natured banter over our responses the speaker regained control of the room as she simply mused aloud, “How interesting.” Then without saying another word she began to walk slowly among the tables and with expert control, the silence grew.

She continued.  “You notice…  I didn’t ask what you wanted to do…. I asked what you wanted to be”    (Another expert pause.)    The hush that exploded over the room gave me chills as we each scrambled to reprogram our thoughts in a heartbeat and to allow what she was saying to sink in.  “Each of you immediately began to describe the kind of jobs you wanted to do.”

At this point my mind raced off to process that last statement.  “Now, wait a minute,”  I thought, “that’s really not fair.  After all, we don’t say we want to do teaching, or do acting.  We say we want to be a teacher, and we understand the implied meaning reflects vocational activity.”

 Her next question drew me back, “But, didn’t you want to be kind and forgiving?  Wouldn’t that fit the “to be” part of the question?  …Didn’t you want to be loving & compassionate?  How about being helpful, honest, & respectful?  Maybe we just need to think of the question in a different light.”

The more I thought about it the more aware I became of the subtle yet astounding contrast in the whole doing vs. being thing.  We live in a sort of hyperactive performance driven frenzy.  The pace becomes a suffocating, strangling monster that requires a tight rein (or an impossibly large cage). 

We strive and scurry and bust our tails daily to perform, to measure results, and to keep putting it out bigger and better. But it’s never enough.  Regardless of how hard we try, the ante is always upped, and the clawing, scratching, competitive race of life continues unless we consciously step back from all the craziness and begin to focus on what it really means to be.

~ De

May 10, 2011

To Know a Child


To know a child's heart . . .
     . . . take time to read the face.

To know a child's thoughts . . .
     . . . take time to ask questions.

To see things from the eyes of a child. . .
     . . . pause to bend down low.

To lead a child to Christ . . .
      . . . take care to follow His ways.

To become like a child . . .
. . . now that's a little more complicated.


~ De







What? There's no Book of ME?!?

My four year-old grandson came into the room one morning as I was reading my bible.  He casually asked what I was up to and I told him I was reading the book of Isaiah.  He immediately fired back, "How 'bout you read the book of Elijah?" 

I tried to explain that this wasn't a book about his baby brother, Isaiah, but his face told me he thought differently.  I then focused on something in the bible he could connect his own name to as I reminded him about the stories of Elijah being fed by ravens, and calling down fire from heaven, and running a race down a mountainside… you know… cool stuff that a four year-old boy should just love.  But, oh no. My Elijah just wilted over the footstool and slithered to the floor, still convinced that he should have his own book in the bible if Baby Brother had one.

He then went through our entire family lineage one-by-one asking if there was a book of grandpa, or a book of mommy, etc. He even asked me, "Is there a book of you?"  I patiently answered 'no' to each inquiry until the shocking truth finally sunk in, and he exclaimed,


"What!!  There's no book of ME?!"  

I honestly don't know what was funnier, the stunned look on his face, or the transparent innocence in the way he phrased this disheartening news.  That's right, Little Buddy, when it comes to God's Word, there's no book of you… or me. 


~De








May 8, 2011

Seize the Cup!

Carpe Vas!... I smile when I think of this quaint little coffee shop in the heart of historic Savannah, GA.  After several hours afoot, we were in desperate need of a little caffeine recharge when I spotted the store sign up ahead. I snapped a few tourist pics and hurried after my hubby as he laughingly barked out: "F-R-E-S-H Coffee!"

The weather was perfect, the skies were a gorgeous shade of blue, and we drank in the sights, smells and sounds of a rather low-key Savannah afternoon while sipping coffee outside the shop.  The owner's clever play on the old "seize the day" mantra made me laugh...  as if one simply cannot let a moment go by without coffee.  Seize the cup!  Get it early!  Get it now!  Make the most of every pot! Yessiree, this was definitely our kinda coffee shop.  Carpe Vas, indeed.

Oh, yeah, baby, I'm all about grabbing onto life.  Just ask anyone who knows my list of exhausted hobbies.  After all life is about living, right?  And living it to the fullest.  But don't get me wrong. There's a vast difference between experiencing life as you live it,  and cramming life full of experiences in order to feel like you've lived.

For me, the living happens in the everyday stuff; the fun stuff... the serious stuff... the lesson-learning-sure-wish-I-weren't-going-through-THIS kinda stuff.  You wake up.  You breathe.  You got the stuff of life staring you in the face.  (And if you're really lucky, you'll at least have a good cup of coffee to go along with it.)  But either way, there's always something to glean from each day's experiences even if it's just one of those character-building, downing-the-blah-oatmeal kind of days.

Every single day we experience places, people, situations and circumstances, and in those moments we process and engage.  Over a lifetime we laugh, love, celebrate and grieve.  We unite, compete, take risks, fall flat on our faces, and try again.  Sometimes we quit trying for a while. We hurt.  But those who grab on to life... True Life ...  find the grace and forgiveness to rise up again; to breathe again... to keep standing... to experience the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living... to seize the Cup.

Psalm 27:13; Ephesians 2:4-9

May 7, 2011

Tag Alongs

Dad’s big old work boots were worn and dirty, and marked by the kind of creases that boasted unique familiarity with his stride. My little brother and I stood by watching as he laced up before heading back out the door to continue his chores. All it took was that twinkle in his blue eyes, a wink and a grin, and we knew we'd just been invited to tag along.


We followed close on his heels, my little brother pelting him with questions as we  scrambled to keep up, turning when he turned and falling all over each other when we misjudged his next move.  Soon we calmed down and fell in-step behind Dad, making our own little game out of trying to step exactly in each of his footprints.


The melody of his gait drew me along as I listened to the unfolding percussive rhythm of his walk. I was mesmerized by the muffled crunch of the gravel as it gave way beneath him, interspersed with scraping sounds as he walked across stepping stones and uneven slabs along the pathway. Even the hushed whispers of his feet gliding over the grass added to the texture of this unique little symphony. 


The change-up in tempo and the intensity of the sounds delighted me, and I scampered after him wanting nothing more than to stay close. I didn’t care where we were going or what we were doing. I didn’t have to know the when, why, or how.  It was enough for me just to be with my dad as he took care of the business of his day.


Sometimes I wonder if we need to re-think the phrase “following Jesus.” It seems to be the heart cry of every true believer, but sometimes we just make it so religious or complicated and “grown-up.” We ask too many questions that demand answers before action.  We try to figure out which way He's going to turn. We analyze and reason until we lose sight of how much fun it can be to just get to tag-along with Him as He carries out His purpose.


What depth of peace and security might we find as we abandon our own agendas and focus on watching and running after His feet?  What symphony in the Spirit might delight and replenish us as we listen for the sound of His very next step?

Father, please restore to my spirit 
the trusting heart of a child; 
a heart that simply delights 
in tagging along with You.  
                                              ~De

May 6, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

          The sun warmed my back as I sat outside devouring the latest issue of MotherEarth News.  The chatter of grandkids at play completed the moment like the soothing babble of a nearby mountain stream. My little trio scrambled up and down the rock retaining walls, and who knows what awesome adventures were forming in those creative little minds... ??  I'm pretty sure I overheard the words “castle” and “princess” in there somewhere.  Every few seconds I glanced up to make sure the Little Prince wasn’t roaming too far from the mote as all three cooperated to conquer the challenges and foes of their imaginary world. 
          My bliss was shattered by the sudden, terrified shrieks of Ava and Audrey as they ran hurtling to safety from the garden spot just up the hill. It wasn’t difficult to figure out that they'd probably gotten a little too personal with some unidentified little member of God’s creation.  
          Their words tumbled all over each other as they tried to describe the horrible monsters they had just seen… “One was black and one yellow!”... “We almost stepped on them!” … “I don’t know if they saw us or not!”  Then Ava crinkled her nose and dared to name the villains; to breathe their name....  “Ssssssssssnakes!  Two of them!”  She did a full-body shudder and flicked her hands as if to shake off the filthy thought.  I squelched the giggle that threatened to give me away.
           Audrey gasped in horror, “Gramma, we had to run from sinTAtions!!”  Her lisping little tongue barely navigated her newly concocted word, and her eyes were as big as her face. 
        “She means TEMP-tation,” Ava informed me as she caught her breath and tried to compose herself.  “Yes!,” Audrey shrieked again, "thinTAYshunth!” Ava corrected her once more and then turned to make sure I was still tracking. “Ummmm… you know, Gramma, " she confided matter-of-factly, ‘because the devil sometimes disguises himself as a snake.”
        “An’….. an’… and,”  Audrey stammered as she punctuated her next deluge of words with ultra-dramatic animation, “that WOMAN touched that APPLE!  And it was ‘cuz of that THNAKE, and now we had to RUN from thinTAYshunth!” 
         Believe me….  I really tried to restrain myself, but that last little demonstration just put me over the top!  As I gave in to the uncontrollable roars of laughter, it was obvious the girls were quite offended at my insensitivity.  After all, as far as they were concerned they had just about stepped on the devil himself!  
        Oh, sure… they’ve got a few little bible details to iron out as their spiritual understanding grows, but who could plan a better object lesson than that.  I'm pretty sure they'll remember the moral of the story for a long time coming, or at least I will.  Come to think of it, Audrey’s little ism kind of sums it up pretty well after all.  Run away from those nasty old temptations... or should I say... sintations.
         Out of the mouths of babes.   ; )

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