March 29, 2012

Rooted in the right stuff

How about it?

Are your roots anchored deeply enough in the right stuff to hold you up when life gives way beneath you?

Crater Lake July2005

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure...   Jesus!"

Hebrews 6:19-20


March 26, 2012

Some things just aren’t what they seem…

CA Trip July2005 047[7]This is one of my favorite vacation pictures. Look closely. What do you see?

Clouds.  -- fact.

Evergreen trees. – fact.

Beautiful blue skies. – fact.

Stones. – fact.

Stair steps. – fact.

At first glance, it appears that you are looking upward at the sky through the trees. Right?

Wrong. Look again.

Wait a minute. I clearly see clouds and blue skies, and I know that clouds and sky are above trees, so… I have to be looking upward at the sky.


Oh. I see. The stair steps are going downward, right? So that means I’m standing somewhere really, really, really high up because I’m looking DOWN on the blue skies and clouds -- which everyone knows are above the trees. It has to be … Right?

Wrong again. It’s a FACT that the picture above shows trees, clouds, blue skies, stair steps, and stones. Facts are facts.

But facts are not the TRUTH.

That’s an amazing and life-changing principle I learned from my pastor several years ago. The truth of what I’m looking at in the picture is this:

I was standing at the top of a set of descending stone stairs on the edge of Crater Lake looking DOWN through the evergreens at the reflection of the clouds in the crystal clear, perfectly still waters below me.

You see… facts are tricky. They are merely pieces of data recorded to capture information. Facts only tell us part of the whole. Facts can be twisted to distort or to embellish reality. Let’s say a police officer records a statement given by a witness at the scene of a crime. That statement is fact, but the fact is merely a record of what a specific person said… it doesn’t mean that what they said is a true account of what actually happened. Get my drift here?

How we interpret and handle facts makes a tremendous impact on what we believe to be true.
When Joshua and the children of Israel entered the promised land, their fame in conquering Jericho and Ai spread throughout the land and struck fear in the hearts of the inhabitants. The nearby Gibeonites realized they were in the path of destruction and concocted a clever scheme. Dressed in old, tattered clothes and with their donkeys loaded down with old sacks and cracked, mended wine skins they approached Joshua offering themselves as servants in exchange for a peace treaty. As they told a tale of a long journey from a distant land, they pointed to their moldy dry bread and the condition of their appearance as factual proof that their story was true. Joshua and his men examined the facts carefully – even sampling their provisions – and they totally swallowed the lie.

Unfortunately, the facts – as convincing as they were – supported the deception, not the reality. In trying to decipher the information presented to them, Joshua and his men missed the most important step of all:

They failed to ask the Lord about it.

So, the next time the facts leave your head spinning in fear and confusion… STOP. Look again. And ask God to show you the TRUTH so you can see things the way they really are instead of merely how they seem.


March 9, 2012

The Drop Off

Our bus slowed and turned off the main road to begin the twenty minute drive into the jungle. The day before I helped assemble school supply packets for the children while the men on our construction team continued work on the second story expansion project at Hospital Shalom.

Standing in small groups outside the three single-room buildings, the children and mamas watched as we approached. Some giggled at these weirdly dressed strangers stepping down from the big yellow bus. Little ones hid behind safe skirts, while older children approached uninhibited, jostling to see what we had in those great big boxes and large black bags.
Classroom - Peten, Guatemala
While team leaders sorted and counted for the distribution, the rest of us engaged curious children and parents as best we could. A few snaps and I turned my camera so they could see the screen. Whether adults or children, the response was always the same: --GASP! followed by giggles as they chattered to each other and pointed out details in the image.

The women shook their heads “no” and hid their faces at first… but not their smiles. I knew the ladies were just as interested in the camera as the children, but they guarded their intrigue with that typical adult restraint we’re all plagued with. After a little coaxing they let me take their pictures, too. Still, as they viewed their results they waved off the image as if to say they didn’t like what they saw.  But their smiles said otherwise.

In the classrooms, barefoot and sandal-clad children waited expectantly while the team distributed the treasures.  The older boys tried to maintain their “cool” but couldn’t disguise their excitement altogether -- especially when they received “The Amazing Gospel” comic book.

Older children await school supplies, Peten

The younger children looked over the contents of the package together and talked among themselves
… grinning,

…touching the clear plastic carefully,

… stalling to open the bags as if to make the fun last.

EL Village outreach 203

Teachers are difficult to secure which results in children placed on long waiting lists for the opportunity to receive education. The children currently attending classes struggle to grasp the material.

 I could hear the compassion in their voices as hospital co-founder Doris Spurrier talked with other missionary and medical staff members in our group. 

They quickly ran down a check-list as they formulated a plan to address potential factors contributing to these learning difficulties. 
    • a follow-up trip to assess nutritional needs and general health care
    • a vitamin supplement program
    •  medicines for other common health issues 

And so it went, this heart response beating with the rhythm of their words.

As we headed for the bus, some of the village women walked with us and gathered nearby under a gnarled tree in the neglected church yard. Just behind them stood a cross… silent… as if unseen… beckoning... patient... totally ignored.

Women in the church yard at EL

The bus fired up, and we prepared to roll out when our leader suddenly boarded and asked us to wait... to stop and pray. The ladies under the tree looked up when the bus shut off again, and for the next few minutes the fervency of our corporate intercession for the people of this community echoed unanimously as God dropped His thoughts and His desires for them into our hearts.

Here we thought we were the ones making a drop-off in the village, and all the while God had a very different drop-off in mind.


What has God dropped in your heart lately?

March 5, 2012

The Symphony of the Streets

The streets explode with the texture of sound, motion, color and the aromas of everyday life. Everywhere I look, progressiveness pushes and crowds to find its place amidst the methods and modes that characterize decades of life lived. With positive changes come the certainty of challenges played out in the struggle between the way of life that once was and that which seeks to be.

The Petén Region of Guatemala has seen a tremendous growth in infrastructure, and an influx of population as more and more rural dwellers move into or closer to the larger cities. Housing is crowded. Streets are chaotic. Highways are hazardous to pedestrians and motorists alike. Yet Life plays on through the skillful hands of the Master Orchestrator.

As change continues to advance, I wonder what impact it will have on the melody of life here? What expressive cultural themes will we hear repeated throughout the composition, and what new phrases will be introduced with the changing rhythm, tempo and key? Only God, our Ultimate Creator/Composer knows the sound of the finished masterpiece, but it is clear that it will sound different than it does today.

Music is alive like that ... fluid, flowing adjusting and changing... just like life itself.

Below is a little composition of photos I took to give you a sampling of the sounds of life played out each day on the roadways between our hotel and Hospital Shalom, or to other villages where our team worked and ministered while there. I don’t know what you will see ... or hear... when you look at these images, but I saw the inviting beauty of the deeply relational lifestyle that graces the Guatemalan culture, and I heard the resounding rhythm of the heart of The Composer everywhere I looked.

Pause your cursor over each photo for added descriptions and a few fun guessing games. Post your answers in the comments section.
Going to work? Or coming home?How much does it take to take a took-took?
Little on waiting in the family car.
Along the streets of San Benito, Guatemala
Where yummy happens! - San Benito
Busy streets - Santa Elena/San Benito Guatemala
Chicken is done. What is she making now?
The family business - fresh pineapple vendor - Guatemala
Midday -- can you find the sneaky siesta taker?
Un perro. Dos caballos. Can you guess?
Life spilling over.

God is at work in the hearts and lives of the people of Guatemala. Please pray that God would release the floodgates of His love and His Spirit on this nation. Pray that hearts would be open and ready to receive Him, and that avenues would be opened to reach into areas where entire villages remain secluded in self-protection and fear.


Post your guesses to the picture-guessing-game questions in the comments below. What questions, you ask?  Hover your cursor over the pictures to see the statements or quiz questions. 
Have fun!

March 1, 2012

A Sunny Day … from Brazil, with a great hug!

Upon arrival home from our Guatemala missions trip, a letter awaited me from the little guy in Brazil that we sponsor through Compassion International. He sent me a ‘sunny day’ on the back of his letter, and this drawing sports his growing interest in cars along with his signature ‘intense sun’ and blue cloud.

My first guess on the vehicle is a stretch limo by the number of little penciled in bodies I detect in the interior. Then again, he may be trying to convey all the perspectives of a pick-up truck loaded down with  multiple passengers travelling together to the nearest town. Or, maybe it's a bus… of sorts? What do you think?

The best part of his brief note said that at the Compassion child development center he recently learned 1 Corinthians 3:16, and as a result he understands that …
“…we have to have Jesus forever in our hearts, and we have to let Him come in and live so that we are temples for Him… and it was really cool.”  ~Jonathan, age 7

J-drawing 2-15-12

Being a Compassion sponsor has been one of the most wonderful journeys for me. Sponsorship opened a door to the nations that allows me to regularly sow seeds of the gospel through the letters I write to our sponsored boys and girls. In each letter I have the opportunity to share bits of my life and to tell them what God has done for me. I especially love to share a bible verse or topic that reminds them how much God loves them and how special they are to His heart.

It’s so simple to provide this unique form of discipleship and encouragement that reaches around the globe, from here all the way to a very specific child in a unique household that lives in a certain village in a distant country. God does the work and multiplies the impact. I just have to be obedient to accept the invitation He offers me to join Him in the process.

What about you?  Have you ever desired to make a difference… to GO to the nations with the good news about Jesus… to be part of what God is doing outside your own backyard?

If you haven’t done anything about that desire yet, Compassion sponsorship is one of the easiest ways to be directly involved in reaching the world for Jesus Christ.

Do something  -- right now.

Click here to find out more about Compassion International’s Christian holistic child development approach to release children from poverty in Jesus name. Get started on your own personal journey to fulfill the Great Commission.

Happy travels!



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