Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ou Pre? (Are You Ready)

Are you ready?
Isn't that such an equipping, gut-checking, all-systems-go question?
Are any of us ever, really, ready?
Walking up the mountain on Sunday I wasn't sure if they'd ask me to give the message or not.

It's happened a few times now. 
Sitting there. Worshiping. Praising God.
Opening up the flood gates.
Then the pastor leans over.
"What are your intentions here today?"

The first thing I think, 
'It's not like I'm asking your daughter out on a date!'
and then it dawns on me. 

This is his church.
This is his flock.
He cares for them much the same way
a father cares for his little girl,
whether she's 2 or 20.

I understand that protective spirit.
I have a stick 3 inches thick and 5 feet long in my house.
I've already told one boy who was making moves on my daughter that if we need to, 
we'll find out which is harder,
His head or my stick.
It's a scary stick.

We arrive at the new church.
There's not even a roof on it yet.
Outdoor worship.... Amen!
They'll hear us all over these mountains this morning!

At first I understand that I'm not giving the message.
That's good, because I have nothing prepared.
Then just before the service starts,
the pastor walks over.
Yes. They expect you to give the message.

I start zig-zagging down the hill from the church.
I need to go and hide.
I need to get alone.
I need to throw up. 

Ohhhhh Lord! 
I need something from You. 
Do you have a word for Your people?
My prayers feel fragile and bare.

I'm here Lord. I'm available. 
If You have something, please show me.

A verse comes into my mind.
Then another. 
Then another....really? That one? Why ---o--o---ok Lord.

I walk back up the hill to the church.
The pastor offers me a chair.
We worship.
Then I hear...
"You ready?"

I am....
and not because of me...

because of Him.

I'm ready.

"Good morning! Thank you for letting us be with you today. I think you've all picked the most beautiful place in Haiti to build a church, up on top of this mountain...."

We have to always be found in that place, Christians.

"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," 
1 Pete 3:15

To me that applies to every day, and every circumstance. 
Any time, in every way, 
in all opportunities,
sharing Christ. 

I should be gushing with rivers of Living Water, so much that if you ask me to speak, you will be flooded and utterly overwhelmed by the joy and hope within....

because I'm rescued!

Did you miss your chance today?
The sun rose again today, beautifully!
You have another chance.
As long as you're still breathing.

Barnes puts it this way:

A Christian should always be willing to converse about his religion. He should have such a deep conviction of its truth, of its importance, and of his personal interest in it; he should have a hope so firm, so cheering, so sustaining, that he will be always prepared to converse on the prospect of heaven and to endeavor to lead others to walk in the path to life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crazy Kids!

We took a day to drive out to the Loving Shepherd ranch and introduce the Babb family to Mr. Shane Shaw's wide open spaces.  The kids got to see the construction of a new building, hold and weigh Tilapia fish in a test for a new fish farm, and even witness the live birth of 2 brand new babies into the local goat family.   There were some seriously gross moments involved, like when the mother goat began to eat her own placenta, still attached to her....wow!  Didn't need to ever see that, ever!

The place is an oasis in the middle of a paradise for kids.  They can run to their hearts content, hold as many babies as possible, drink from a good water source, and never run out of space.  

Shane's been reclaiming the land for awhile now so the grasses are tall and lush, so soft we sat down and had a picnic of PBJ sandwiches and granola bars under the shade of a palm tree.  I'm reminded of home when I'm there.  If it weren't for the palms you might guess you're sitting at the foot of the Bighorn mountains.  I could have slept away the afternoon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Si Bondye Vle!

OH I love that phrase!

Are you coming?
Wi, si Bondye vle.

Are you living?
Mmmm-hhhmmmm! Si Bondye vle.

Are you setting the captives free?
Anpil! Si Bondye vle.

Is He?

Is God willing?   

Without doubt He is!  You can count on it! 

He's willing. 

I'm coming, if He's willing.
I'm living, taking a fresh new gulp of air in the very next breath, if He's willing.
I'm going to carry out His plan for me, if He's willing.  

I'm here!  I'm available Jesus!   I'm willing!

“Because he loves me,” says the  Lord,  “I will rescue him;  I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.   Psalm 91:14

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rebuilding From the Inside Out

The Haitian President has declared this day a national day of mourning in remembrance of the quake. I'm told most places are shut down today. This is the day our friends are coming across the island to join in the work of sharing the Gospel with the local missions in this village. As of just a few minutes ago, they were picked up at the airport in Haiti, and now they are making their way through the city of Port-au-Prince. 2 years ago today, it was smoke and rubble and tears. Today, a country, a people, and a ministry are in the midst of rebuilding.

'If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like–minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!'~Paul

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pushing Through

We were invited to a local high school to attend a conversation club the other day.  We were told there would be English, French, and Kreyol languages spoken.  
It was our first visit, so we were staring at all of them the same way they were staring at all of us.  
I don't think it's too often a missionary family shows up for class...to learn.  

After introductions and learning everyone's names, we began to settle into the different languages, and we soon learned that this was a very important day.  They were picking the name for the club, and on a piece of paper one of the directors had a list of 9 or 10 different suggestions.   Each person who'd suggested a name had to explain their reasoning, and as they went around the room, I began to really take in what was happening around me. 

Not 15 feet from the front door of our classroom is the most major road in Haiti, the Blacktop as my kids like to call it.  Dump trucks, motorcycles, and buses are screaming by.  Horns are shrieking.  Brakes squealing. A donkey walks by, then a man pushing a handcart, the back axle of some unfortunate automobile.  Probably an old tap-tap, I'm thinking.  It's hot.  The air is damp.  There is no electricity.   Just 40 or so people, all crammed into one another's personal space, occupying a room the size of a modest living room in America.  

Sometimes the engines are roaring so loud you can't hear any of the words being spoken.  
Sometimes the exhaust of thick black smoke rolling in the air is almost fumigating.  

That's when it dawned on me.  I had an entry.  A suggestion.  A name for the school.  I jumped up.  Some of them jumped too. 

I described everything I saw unfolding in this little room.  And yet, here are these people, hungry to learn, eager to push through, not willing to give up....

"There is one word that comes to my mind.  How do you say 'Perseverance' in French?"
"Perseverance." They said.
"How do you say it in Kreyol?"
"Do you know how we say it in English?"  The room was silent.
"Perseverance!  It's the same word for all three languages.  When I come to Haiti, there is a language 'barrier' that I have to push through.  When you come to America, it's the same for you.  The only way to communicate is if you can do what you are already doing right now.  You have to Persevere.  The school should be named "Club Perseverance."

Now, I'm not sure what they decided on.  We had to leave.  But I got to preach a message about perseverance the very next day at a church in Jabouin.   I arrived early to the chapel.  It was dark.  It was quiet as a mouse.  Church had not yet began.   No one else was inside, save this one young woman with a white handkerchief over her head.  She was reading her Bible, pouring over the words.   There was just enough light coming through the window for her to make out the text.   I watched her soak up a sentence, and in silence I could see the questions form in her mind as she digested that truth...
'Oh God, do you hear me too?  Can I hold onto this....hope?' 
One word came flooding in again, 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Family Business

We came to a small fishing village near Au Sanana with Pierre and his wife.  There was a boy there who was working with his Dad.   Together they prepared the nets. He was very proud when I photographed him with his Dad.  When everything was ready and the sun was setting, they shoved off for open water.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Do Whatever He Tells You

The cooking started early in the morning, and it never really stopped for the rest of the day, even into the late hours of the night.   There were fish half as tall as me and in the most beautiful color of metallic rainbow pink, there was fresh beef from the cows that were butchered all morning.   There were giant crab and lobster, and sauces to tantalize a different taste bud for everything on the menu.  The festivities of the Bon Ane (New Year) and the Haitian Independence day commenced, and in the middle of Ti Rivier my family was experiencing a full blown festival.  
Loud music was pumping.   Drinks were flowing.  There was laughter and catching up, salutations and excitement. Life was abundant.   

It's all about putting on the new, and shrugging off the old.  
The people put on new clothes, new shoes, new hats, new everything, and then they go into the street.  The tradition is that you greet everyone you see and wish them a happy new year.  Then you visit all of your family, and they will have something for you when you arrive.  It's very exciting, because the family is waiting, anticipating  the arrival of new smiles, kisses and hugs.

As the evening came and the people rolled in, Pierre had their plates filled to overflowing while they all sat to watch the Passion of the Christ.  Neighbors, police officers, friends, family, and loads of children in all shapes and sizes filled the yard.  

The master of the house and his bride were busy loving on everyone, making sure the air was filled with love and appreciation.   They performed thier job flawlessly.

But, it's behind the scenes, where the servants are....ahhhhhh, that's where I love to be.   I watch the inner workings. I see the camaraderie of the workers.  Tikilene and Tinounoun, churning out pot after pot of meat, and yet schoolgirl giggles are on their lips.  They are working as hard as I've seen anyone work,  from the early morning through the night, and they are happy.  Truly happy!  There is banter between us.  There is a heart to help,  to work together, and there is an appreciation, because the master of the house has his job to do, and we all have ours.    Our job is to give him the ability to do his job.  

Jesus's first miracle of turning the water into wine took place in just this kind of story, did you know that?   Today or 2000 years ago you wouldn't know,  because among the brew of a feast, the wine ran out, and only the servants were aware.   The master of the house was busy overseeing the festivities, and it was Jesus's mother who first came to Him, to hurry-up and do something before there was embarrassment and shame served on the tables.  

And I believe I understood my Savior perfectly when she came to Him with the look of fret and worry upon her wrinkled brows.  She was fraught with people-pleasing, and He was playing with her, probably smiling.  I imagine His eyes were soft and his voice even more tender, as He shrugged and made light of a tense situation.    "Dear woman," He said, "Why do you involve me?"
I love that!
But even more than that, I love her response, because she knew her boy would do something.  She knew he'd make it right and snap-to for His Momma!  
"Do whatever he tells you." She told the servants.  Whatever he tells you....

Do you know what catches me most in the story?  
It's the soft underbelly of the moment, the behind-the-scenes drama, contrasted by the perspective of servants and a master.  

They had a dilemma.  In the midst of the hard work, they knew there was a problem to address.  But when Jesus turned the water into wine and the master tasted it, the Bible says he was unaware. He didn't even know there was a problem, and he announced that the best wine had been saved for the last!     He did his job, and they did theirs, flawlessly.  The servants saw the miracle.  They didn't miss the blessing.   And the master of the house was able to manage his great work as well.   Together the mission was scratched out and overwritten with one word...accomplished!

Isn't it a beautiful picture, a real-life story played out for us in the most eloquent and intimate way?    And why?  Because He loves us!

The festivities here wrapped up with an early morning swim in the ocean.  A washing away of the old, an ushering in of the new.   As I dove under the salty water I felt as if I were being baptized all over again!
Make me clean Lord.  Wash me away, sweep over me and make me clean.  Don't let me miss this blessing!

'On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 
“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water” ; so they filled them to the brim. 
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. 

 ~John 2:1-11