Saturday, April 20, 2013

Making sense of the dream...

The other day, I came home from work totally exhausted. I wanted to go for a workout, but I knew if I didn't close my eyes for just a few minutes I'd never make it there. So I took a short nap. Really short. Less than 20 minutes I think....and I had a dream.

Have you ever had one of those dreams that is so vivid and clear and when you woke up you just KNEW it meant something? I'm not saying it was prophetic or anything, but I KNEW it had meaning. Now I'm trying to make sense of it all.

In this dream, I'm not sure exactly where I was - maybe Africa? (This of course would have to be based on PICTURES I've seen of the place since I've never actually been there.) Anyway, I was trying to make a decision whether to go on or go back. Now this part of the dream is kind of hazy. I'm not sure where "go on" meant or where "back" actually was. Finally, I decided to "go back". I had no clear direction so that was the only thing that made sense.

My driver was waiting for my answer. I say "driver" but this person was so much more. He was close...a, closer than that, but I still can't say who he was. I said something like, "I guess I'll go back," and climbed into the jeep. It was one of those safari looking jeeps you see in the movies. The strange part was that the "driver" and someone else climbed up on top to do the driving. I sat all alone in that jeep. 

The jeep started up and began moving....but it wasn't headed back. It was headed off the edge of a cliff! It wasn't a huge cliff, but I was looking straight down at the oncoming gravel! I was about to yell, "Wait! Wait! You're going the wrong way!" when the front of the jeep picked it was caught in a draft and it started to soar! I was flying! I could hear the driver say one thing..."uncertain. You were uncertain." (Maybe the word was unsure...why is it that dreams escape us so quickly?)

I looked up toward the sky and yelled at the driver, "THANK YOU!!!!" I felt such a huge relief! I knew he was right - I didn't really want to go that way and I had been rescued! Then I woke up.

Like most dreams, this one is pretty strange. Unlike most dreams, I woke up feeling so light and calm. I felt relief!

I still didn't know what to do, but now I felt a peace that I could trust that God had this. He knows what is best for me and since I am putting it in His hands, it will be okay. Better than okay. I won't crash - I'll fly!

Fast forward to the very next day. I was still kind of "flying" with my feelings, I even had a spring in my step! Then I got the news. The door I had so thought that God was leading me toward had closed. To be honest, I had heard through the grapevine that it probably had, but that day I learned it was definitely closed. I hadn't even scored a chance to interview. I was, at least in my own mind, totally ignored. Invisible.....and I could see the ground closing in.

It is here where I'm supposed to remember the dream and just brush it off...but it still hurt. Worry started to creep in. Tears hovered behind my eyes just waiting for a chance to jump out and ruin my makeup. I wondered if I had heard God at all. Had I wasted the past year? What was it all for? 

Oh, the "mature, rational" me knows it's all okay. God never lets anything go to waste and I've grown a lot this year. The two year old in me, however, wants to sit down and pout. Whispers of "worthless" and "not good enough" and "you'd have failed anyway" crowd my thoughts. 

I find myself looking at the ground and thoughts of the coming crash fill my head.

The dream, well it seems like just a dream; but I know it was something more. I will choose to look up and shout "THANK YOU," knowing that the One who is driving isn't going to let me fall. He knows the desires of my heart even when I don't. He knows what lies ahead and He has made a way...even where there seems to be no way. It may look like a cliff, but it's actually just the first step in flying.

Don't know what you face today. Maybe, like me, it is a disappointment that looks like the road has run out. Maybe it looks like the front of the car is already over the edge of the cliff and you're just waiting on the inevitable crash that follows. Like me, maybe you are battling your own thoughts and worries. If so, then I invite you to do what I plan to do. 

 Look up and shout, "THANK YOU!" Our Father knows how to make this jeep fly. 

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Psalm 46:1 (MSG)

46 God is a safe place to hide,
    ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,

Exodus 14:15-16
And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me?... Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. - 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Enlarge my heart..

One of my all time favorite shows is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", especially the cartoon one. I love all the parts, but lately one in particular has been on my mind. It's the scene where you get to see the Grinch's heart, which was two sizes too small, grow ten times that day. I think I may need a Grinch moment myself.

I blame it on was there that it really hit me how small my heart had become. I'm not sure what caused it. Perhaps it was the loss of our son so many years ago. Maybe it was the death of my father and mother. Maybe it was just the thousand little hurts and disappointments that happen to us all in life; but for whatever the reason, I became painfully aware that my heart had shrunk like some old t-shirt that was tossed in the wash with hot water over and over again. It was just...too small! It didn't fit right anymore. It was tight and binding and just down-right uncomfortable!

Then came Cambodia and I stepped outside my little world of me and suddenly I became aware. My heart had shrunk! It hadn't become hard, it had just dwindled down to a place where I was more concerned about my little universe than the great big world around me!

I had become like the "Jim Carey version of The Grinch when he said, "The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there - on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear? " It was all about me, me, me....and a heart that was just too small.

Then I met the people from Hard Places Ministry and my world was shaken. They loved - sometimes those that seemedcompletely unloveable. Daily they faced horrendous odds that would have caused many hearts to shrink, but instead theirs seemed to grow even more! They walked into the darkness carrying light despite battle after battle. Looking at these young people, that's when I realized just how small my own heart had become. And since then my prayer has become, "Lord, help my heart to grow." I don't want to walk around with a heart that is two sizes too small! I don't want to look at others as 'those people'. I want to see them as You do and I want to love.

It's right about here that I remember another line from the Jim Carey version..."MAX. HELP ME... I'm FEELING." 

See, that's the problem with an enlarged FEELS, and not just the good stuff. It feels the hurts, too. Am I the only one that really doesn't like that part? But Jesus did that for us. He felt our pain. I've heard it said that He actually died of a broken heart while on the cross that day. And He forgave.

There's that other part of having a heart that feels. It has to forgive or it starts to shrink again. I have to admit I struggle with this sometimes. I see someone who has hurt me or those that I love and I don't want them around! I want to yell, "NO! You can't come here! This is MY church!" but I can't do that without having my heart start to shrink away.

This morning, I heard the song by Matthew West, "Forgiveness" and somehow I knew it all tied in with my shrinking heart. 

It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge 
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

There are those who I still have trouble forgiving, so I just avoid them. I'm good at avoiding things I don't want to deal with....and my heart shrinks a little more.

But I'm ready to go through a Grinch transformation. I'm ready to let my heart grow beyond my own little world. I think I'm even ready to get a little uncomfortable in the process and FEEL.

Thank you Hard Places Ministry and Cambodia. Thank you for your "heart"...and for helping mine to grow.

Isaiah 54:2
The Voice (VOICE)
    Enlarge your house. You are going to need a bigger place; don’t underestimate the amount of room that you’ll need. So build, build, build.

Ezekial 36: 26a
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

God's Timing and Underdone Cupcakes

I stood there in front of my little country church and told the entire congregation that I felt like I was called to full time ministry. I was around 15 or 16, I guess; and I just knew I was going to change the world....probably before I was an old woman of 25.

Last night, I stood in the back of my church listening to two other young women who were ready to dedicate their lives to full-time ministry; and I saw myself all those years ago. Both so young and eager and ready to change the world - RIGHT NOW! Patience and waiting, well...they'd work on that later.

It seems I've had the same conversation over the past week with a number of young women, all of them ranging in age from 15 - 27, impatient with the waiting process. They were either frustrated with the fact that they weren't farther along with what they felt God had for them, or they are chomping at the bit to get started!

I just have to laugh. I remember being where they are now....I wanted to do great things for God, but the thing is, I wasn't ready..... not in my twenties, or my thirties, or even my forties! Here I am in my 50's and I think I am just now getting started!

Why is it that we think we're supposed to be "doing" great things for God and if we aren't doing them by the time we're 25 (or 18) then we're behind schedule? We tend to forget that even Jesus didn't begin His ministry till He was 30! Personally, I'm nowhere nearly as advanced as Jesus. 

Plus, why do I think that the daily living I am doing somehow isn't full time ministry? Doesn't the Bible say something about WHATEVER you do, do it as unto the Lord? Every Christian can look at life as full-time ministry. Oh, it may not have the title "missionary" in front of it, but it's full time all the same...and sometimes it's preparing us for something, something greater than we'd ever imagined.

So what does all this have to do with cupcakes? Well, the other day, my daughter decided to make some cupcakes. The idea was great. She did all the mixing, filled the tins, and stuck them in the oven. Then came the really hard part - waiting. Like most teenagers, my daughter isn't all that good at waiting....or following directions. She overfilled the tins and before long the batter was rising over the edges and in danger of making a major mess. Her answer was simple - go ahead and pull them out of the oven despite the fact they weren't yet done in the middle!

The cupcakes were.....disappointing. We had all set our mouths to be ready for cupcakes and instead we got some sort of gooey, doughy mess. (Yes, I did try to eat one. I love cupcakes and I am a bit impatient myself. I did, however, put the rest back into the oven to finish the cooking process!)

Serving God, in this instance, is a bit like baking cupcakes. You've got to do the prep work, and then you have to WAIT. Waiting isn't doing nothing. It is allowing God to take what He's put into you and "cook" it till it's ready for those around you. If we get impatient, the result is an underdone cupcake. We're disappointed and so is everyone else. They hoped for cupcakes and what they got was half-cooked batter! 

We don't need to beat ourselves up or get frustrated either. As we "wait", we also serve, helping others achieve the dreams God has placed in their lives. When the time is right, the timer will "ding" and we'll move into that "dream" God placed in our heart all those years ago....only it'll be far better than what we'd ever imagined, and probably a whole lot different, too.

God knows the plans He has for you...and He knows the people He has for you to touch. If we run ahead, those we are supposed to help won't even be there yet! God isn't constrained to "time" as we know it...and I've never seen Him be late. (Of course, I don't remember Him being early either!)

As I looked into the eyes of that 15 year old at church and listened to her dreams, I flashed back to myself at her age. I had no idea that the "dream" might have to cook for almost 40 years, but that's okay. I figure that just means God must be planning on me being here for a while - for there is still much to be done. I have no doubt these precious young women will do great things because of their love for Christ, and one day they will share this same nugget of truth with some other young His time.

Happy baking my friends.

(In case you wondered, I'm not done with the stories from Cambodia...there is still much to share!)

Psalm 37:7

The Voice (VOICE)
Be still. Be patient. Expect the Eternal to arrive and set things right.

Lamentations 3:25

The Message (MSG)
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help fromGod.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Another birthday...

The following is an intermission from my reflections on Cambodia....simply cause it's my birthday and it's on my mind!

Since I celebrate my 54th birthday today, I've been doing a lot of thinking about just how to handle getting this old. Over the hill, past my prime, etc. Even if a person tries to tell themselves that 50 is the new 30, there echoes in the back of their mind that feeling that makes them cringe...that perhaps they are, in fact, getting old. 

Funny thing is, I remember when I turned 30 feeling pretty much the same way! I even wonder does my father-in-law have those same thoughts now that he's about to turn 83.

Our society celebrates youth, that goes without saying. Even in areas of ministry, we tend to look to the next generation....those who will be the "Joshua" generation and take the promised land. While I in no way want to discount those who have not yet made the trip around the sun as many times as me, I can't help but I done? Does God look at me and figure, "Well, she's still alive but I can't really use her for much anymore. Time to look at the next group coming up." Of course, we all know that's ridiculous...but many of us who have made the trip over 40 or 50 times still have those moments. You know the ones I'm talking about, those times when you wonder if your best years are behind you and perhaps you just never fulfilled what God had planned for your life. Those times when you I too old to be used by God?

I've often heard that a baby is God's opinion that the world should go on. Not sure how theologically sound that is, but I do believe that every child born is born with a purpose. There are no "accidents". Each life has a purpose in God. That's what got me to thinking about those birthdays again. Perhaps, just perhaps, each passing birthday is God's way of letting us know He's not finished with us yet....He still has a work for us to do...we need to "go on". We may not have the same spring in our step that we once had, but that doesn't mean we're done. Whatever God created you to do, as long as you're still blowing out the candles on the cake, it's not over yet.

The gifts of God are without repentance....and as long as we abide on this earth, we are to use those gifts. Don't think that just because you are older that God won't still fulfill the know the one I'm talking about...the dream that He placed in your heart years ago...when you still had that spring in your step. God doesn't make mistakes....and He doesn't forget about you or that dream.

God's time table isn't the same as ours, and if you're still alive, then evidently God still has something for you to do. Though it tarries, wait for it. Let your gifts continue to grow and mature...and be used. Allow each passing birthday to serve as a reminder that God is in control and He's not finished with you yet.

For everyone, no matter when it comes, I wish you Happy Birthday! May this birthday bring you assurance that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it....and don't be afraid to continue to dream.

Ephesians 1:11-12 (Message)
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Memories fading?

Last night, my pastor told me that we'd be "sharing" about our experience in Cambodia next week and my immediate thought was - "That's too far away! The memories are beginning to fade!" The past week I have been living with the keen awareness that the memories that seemed so alive and fresh are beginning to fade like a bad polaroid. (Those of you who remember the first "instant" cameras know what I mean by this. The pictures slowly formed right before your eyes, but it didn't take much longer for those snapshots of time to fade as well!)

But I don't want to forget.

I don't want to forget the sweet young man who worked at our hotel, watching over us and so happy to serve his fellow man. I don't want to forget the sight of the children waving to us from the street. The faces of so many passing each other in the midst of the busy, noisy city. The worship in the Khmer church. The sharing with the Khmer workers who displayed such mercy and grace for ones so young. And there was the time I got to spend with our "team". I so enjoyed meeting with them for coffee in the mornings and fellowship at the evening meal...don't want to forget that either. 

Pictures do help, but even these don't capture the moment. I wish I could go back and live every second a little more fully. I find myself looking forward to going back and recreating the moment, but knowing the moment has passed. 

Isn't that like life in general?

We look at pictures of our children and wish we could "go back" for a moment and kiss those cubby cheeks. We remember our parents, now gone on before, and wish we could wrap our arms around them one more time. We think back to who we were as teens and young adults and wish we could go back and tell ourselves a few things about life....or Gibbs slap ourselves in the back of the head. We wander back, trying to recreate a moment in time.

We can't "go back" - not for a do-over or for a live-over...but we can move forward, and we can keep the memory alive.

I know I can't "go back" to that week, but I long to "go back" and be with the people I met while I was in Cambodia. The faces of the children are before me in my prayers each day. I anxiously look for "updates" from the other side of the world....all keep the memories alive and help me move forward. The Lord willing, I will go to Cambodia AGAIN....cause I guess that while it's not possible to go "back", we can jump in with what God is doing today!

Isaiah 43:19

The Message (MSG)
16-21 This is what God says,
    the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
    who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
    they lie down and then can’t get up;
    they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

Philippians 3:13 The Message (MSG)

Focused on the Goal

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Behind the masks

One of my favorite things about Cambodia HAD to be the tuk tuk rides. For those who haven't had the privilege of traveling in Asia, you probably have no idea what a tuk tuk is. Basically, it is an open air taxi pulled by a motorcycle. They are a major form of transportation in Cambodia along with motos - which are EVERYWHERE. Thanks to my friend Steph, I also got to take my first motorcycle ride. It was awesome...but I digress. Back to the tuk tuk rides.

One of the reasons I loved those rides so much was how close it put me to the people around me. We were literally inches from each other - sometimes with dozens of people all maneuvering for the same position in traffic. I was never afraid in all that crazy traffic. We had the most amazing tuk tuk drivers ever! And as you rode along, you could see the faces of those around you. Really see them. And you could smile at each other. I loved it! Imagine - sharing smiles with hundreds of people as you rode along!

Then, one day we were taking a much longer ride - all the way out to the killing fields. (That trip will have to be a blog all by itself...for now this is about the ride.) The missionaries we were with gave us all masks - those kind you see on doctors - so that we could ride without breathing in all the dust and fumes we would encounter on that trip. 

I was willing, but the flesh was weak! Those masks were so hot! But that wasn't the real problem. As we rode along in our tuk tuk, I started to notice that no one was smiling at me anymore. Then I realized WHY! I was smiling, but they couldn't see it! They had no idea I was willing to make that momentary connection because my smile was hidden behind the mask.

It didn't take long and I took that darn mask down! It was meant to keep bad things out, but it also kept the good things out too. It kept me from sharing the only thing I really had that I could share with these people...a smile. (This is a picture of my friend, Dixi, who seemed to have as much trouble with that mask as I did!)

Masks. I wonder how often we wear these masks in our daily lives. Ours aren't the obvious ones like the surgery masks; ours are masks of pretend...pretending we are someone we really aren't. They work really well, but while they keep others from seeing our flaws, it also keeps the good parts hidden as well. Oh, and it keeps us from receiving the "good stuff" that they would share as well.

I don't want to live life that way - hidden. I want to live life transparently, sharing the smiles. That means I will be "vulnerable" - something I don't really like to be. People may see me without my "mask" - but the trade-off will be worth it. 

For just a moment, we will get to share a smile. We might even get to share our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:12, 16-18

12With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. 

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a]the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.