Some days I come to the realization that my feet are dangling in the air, that there's no traction. Then there comes at the tail of that frustration a fresh pump of inspiration, a puff of wind in the silk gives a neck-snapping jerk of forward motion, and the rest of my time is spent reeling, just trying to hold on and manage the ride until the next landing. I'm a man whose skydived out of an airplane, pulled the chute and landed on the very rim of the Grand Canyon. The wind is gusting at 100mph and my shoot is just drifting over the edge of the sheer cliff....filling, coming to life, about to explode. Oh boy... teeth gritting, muscles tensing, heels digging in as if I'm plowing a row to plant corn.... no turning back now, nothing left to do but jump....but my oh my, it's gonna be the ride of a lifetime!
Where am I going with this? That's what it feels like to me, following Jesus.
In the effort to do something we can all come to the moment when we realize we've done nothing at all, and Thank You Jesus that it's not the same way with you!
I've a million colors on my palette to paint you with, Lord, but even if I used them all, I'd only make a muddled mess of what you look like to me! Somehow it would still look gray in comparison to the real thing, like scratching out a sunrise, a sky on fire, with just a few chunks of colored charcoal...
Maybe if I start with only a few of the vibrant colors, and then let them mix and bring out the flavor of who you are in my every day?
Three weeks ago, my brother Patchouko and I drove our moto's down a poor gravel road. We came to Gelee Beach, a community right on the edge of the water, right on the edge of Cayes, right on the edge of Hell...and then we came upon James and Rachael Courter and a little mission called Arise Haiti, and there comes to my mind those granite words of an old missionary sage...'Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell.'
Patchouko's wife was due to have a baby any day. He was wrapped in worry, trying to discern what to do, considering the option of shipping her off to Port-au-Prince to give his new baby the best chance to survive the delivery. Nothing was working out. Time was running out. I asked Patchouko if we should see if they were home, and they were.
"Have you seen our birthing room?" asked Rachael. Really Lord?
Yes. It was as beautiful as any birthing room in America, fitted for comfort, soft, warm, inviting, and fully stocked. When we walked out I said to Patchouko, "I didn't know why we came down this road today," an odd turn in a direction entirely not on our way home, "but now I do. I think God really loves you brother."
"Yes, I know he does... Sometimes I think he loves me too much!" He said to me.
We even made a practice run, just in case it would fall to me to drive her, and it was a good thing, because I would have taken the wrong road. Then the day came that it wasn't a drill. Just in time, Rachael asked the incoming doctor to bring some Pitocin to speed up the delivery. Just in time, Jesula's contractions came together. The baby was coming out with the cord wrapped tightly around her, cutting off all of her air. Just in time, they got little Francisca out, and just in time, she was saved.
Any turn of events may have brought about the death of his little baby girl. Going to Port instead of driving down that gravel road, not making the practice run, not getting the Pitocin... Instead of a baby girl who finally gulped in a big deep breath of air, we could have gulped in mourning and pain and sadness... but no. The Giver of Life had a different painting in mind. A little more bright and cheerful, a little less gray. Instead the beautiful color of a newborn's fingers, squeezing her Daddy.
Torrey Babb, whose missionary family is living with us this spring, also happened to have a toothache. Since James and Rachael had been around awhile, we asked if they knew of a good dentist.
"We have one coming on Sunday." She smiled.
Could it be, Lord, You have the Masterpiece already painted in your mind? It's only up to the paint to be squeezed out of the tube, to be supple enough to mix on your brush, to be used up on the canvas. Are you seeing the sails fill with the wind?
Do you know the kick, the neck-jerking part? It wasn't even Torrey who ended up needing the dentist!
It was my 8-year old little girl. It wasn't just a sore tooth, it was an abscess, an infection! And it wasn't just a dentist. It was an oral surgeon, a man of God who felt the call to come to Haiti to help!
"...sometimes I think He loves me too much!"
Are you ready to jump over the edge? Get ready. I'm not finished...
That same night, while we were seating my little girl in the surgeon's chair, a man came through the door asking us to help him bring in an elderly woman who was dying.
We walked in the dark, in unfamiliar territory, down a back alley with strangers all around, until we came to the house where we found her. She was tossed in the corner like a piece of garbage, on the cement floor, all 50 lbs of her. She was nothing but bones. She was sucking in the stale air mixed with the stench of urine and feces, in little forced pops. Like a fish plucked from the ocean, lying in the sand, popping it's mouth open and closed while the gills burn. We wrapped her in a sheet. I grabbed her feet, James grabbed her upper body. I picked her up as if she was hollow. Like carrying a small sack of flour. Nothing to her. We brought her into the room, the room, the same room that Patchouko's wife delivered her baby girl in just one week before... Heels digging, plowing, the wind is gusting.
'From Him, through Him, to Him, are all things.....'
We all know she's dying. None of the Haitians in the room seem to care about her. They didn't really know her. Someone in the room says they remembered she sold charcoal in her working years. I feel no love lost in the eyes of the family. They seem estranged. More interested in the medical equipment around the room than in the soul losing her grasp on the table...
Nurses, doctors, a crack team of specialists, all for the Glory of God, began to work on her. Veins kept disintegrating, exploding. No fluids would push in. It was all they could do to even squeeze one drop of blood from her dry, withered body.
Sugar under the tongue...no real response.
Checking the gag reflex... she'd drown in a cup of water right about now...
"Oh Lord! She's only a 3!" One of the medical team says...leaving me lost in confusion.
"Not possible." says another.
"This machine is accurate!" comes the reply.
"Not possible. This kind tells us when the sample is bad. It's right."
"That's not even compatible with life!"
There's a pause in the room.
James speaks up, "This is bigger than us. There's another reason she's here. What are the chances, we're all here, at just this time, all of these Christians...Even that she's still alive. God's grace!"
He begins to speak into her ear, telling her about Jesus.
Someone jams an 18 gauge needle into her tibia, a last resort to bring fluids back into her body.
Someone else begins to sing praises.
I'm stroking her arm, rubbing her legs in the futile effort to warm her icy limbs, looking her straight in the eyes. She wants terribly to say something. She can't. Speech is long since a luxury she can't afford... Her eyes search me. Mine search her. I smile at her. I ask Jesus to reach her, to speak to her in that secret place, to give her eyes to see and ears to hear.... I know I will never be the same. Going over the edge now..
'Who has known the mind of God? Who has counseled Him?...'
My girl is standing at the door of the room. This old woman is standing at death's door. My girl's cheek is puffy, her eyes droopy. The tooth came out and all is well. She's tired. She's wanting to cuddle. I notice that just like this old woman, she's wanting to finish. To sleep. To come to rest.
Everyone in the room hears James giving the Gospel, talking about the peace and love of Jesus.
The kind of peace that is real, lasting, never running out, because He is the source.
Not peace like the world gives. No. This peace is real. You feel it from the inside out.
The kind of love that is unmatched. To the point of laying down life for your friends.
No turning back....Nothing left to do now but jump....
Driving home in the pitch dark. No street lights in Haiti. Just blackness, with the occasional eyes of a mutt, returning a hollow green stare.
He gets us home, safe.
In the morning I reach the phone just in time, to hear Rachael's soft voice.
"Did she make it?" I'm asking, but I already know the answer.
"She passed away at 1 a.m. She came to and seemed very coherent before she died."
Another question that I think I know the answer to, but I hear myself asking anyway,
"Did you give her the Gospel again?"
"Yes. Absolutely. And everyone in the room got to hear it again."
I'm wondering if I'll see her there in Heaven.
I'm wondering if I'm ever going to find my feet again.
I look to my daughter, smiling at me, minus one tooth.
And then there's the puff. God's breath. Pushing me up, lifting me again.
Post: These images were sent to me courtesy of James and Rachel. Thanks very much for sending them over. They are a visual reminder of a very real blessing!