Thursday, December 12, 2013

Who's at the Gate?

Part of the discipleship in the fields has been trying to teach the men about who they listen to.  There's many voices, many people who come to see the work we're doing.  Some are encouraging, but many are negative and discouraging.  One heartbreaking truth I've found in Haiti is that as soon as someone begins to aspire, whether spiritually or financially, the people begin to pull them back down into the mud.  Almost as if they don't want to see someone rise up out of the depths of the earth. I don't understand it, whether it's cultural or if it's purely spiritual, but almost immediately you will find an enemy at the gate, or someone sitting in the seat of the mocker.

In our case the illustration is very literal.  We've finished the work of fencing off the gardens to keep the animals out, but we haven't yet built the gates. The men who are working with me come into the fields early in the morning.  We begin with prayer and laying out the days work, and inevitably as soon as the men have found a hope or a nugget of truth to hang onto, as I'm walking away I see someone coming.

They come to the open gate or right up to the fence where the men are working, and then and there I find the crafty serpent has once again reverted to his time-honored tradition of slithering into the garden.

I hear the negative comments.  I hear lies.  I hear that spirit that is so surely against anything good that I can see it just as simply as I can see night and day.   In my mind I can paint Satan right there...."Did God REALLY say that?"
I feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and back out to the garden I go.

I see the discouragement has come into the thoughts of the men.  I see the bounce in their steps has withered into a sigh of quiet solitude.  The fellowship is exhausted, and the sails are straining for the wind.
Six times this has happened since we've began, this relentless barrage, and each time we have to put these thoughts where they belong, kicking them out of the garden, before we can get back to the work of tilling the soil and planting the seed.  The soil is broken and begging for the seed to be dropped.  It thirsts for a new hope.  The seed is good.  The time is right and the enemy is frightened.   It's a battle of epic proportions played out in the most awesome of splendor, right in my back yard, but I know a secret...the wages of sin is death.

Kari just happens to be teaching a Bible class that yesterday bore down upon this very subject, and all of my thoughts culminated in this simple children's illustration that I showed the men today.  See how the shepherd sits at the gate and guards the sheep, keeping them protected and safe?  We are but sheep, like it or not, swayed by the prevailing winds.  6000 years ago or today.  Read the news, the latest current events, and you can see our simple tendencies...
The mess with Syria, Benghazi, the fiscal cliffs and government shutdowns, right down to the disrespect and humiliation of South Africa as they tried to mark the passing of Mandela.   I see the poor man and his sign language, just making it up as he went along.  And this man stood three feet from our President.  
But what about you, your life, your tumbles and falls?  Have you not found yourself to be so comparable to a sheep, those times when you realize you've been so led astray?
If the shepherd is not at the gate, the enemy will be.  Are you prepared for that?   I think of how many times I've been found asleep in the garden while Jesus prays...

'Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~John 10:7-10

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Today I drove my family to the city market in Cayes, the largest in Southern Haiti. We were in the middle of what I call 'Crazyville' where all of the vendors are crowded in together and the motos and cars are stacked up end to end.  There is no such thing as personal space here.  Logan and I were going to try to find some nails at the hardware store. The girls were going for vegetables. Just as everyone was opening their car doors to jump into the hustle I saw every head in the sea of people turn in our direction and people began running.  I yelled for the girls to stay in the car.   Everyone was screaming and running our direction in a panic, holding their noses and covering their eyes.  
"Roll up your windows, NOW!" I barked.  Chaos began to unfold all around us, and that's when we got a glimpse of either the UN or the police, firing tear gas. 
I hit the gas as soon as there was an opening big enough for our car and we joined the mass exodus.  
I could see all the people with watery eyes and stinging throats. All of us, just trying to get away.  
We drove for 4 or 5 blocks and then stopped the car to get our wits about us...
"How bout we just get food from the little indoor market down the road?" I said.  Kari nodded.
"Unless you want to wait and try to go back?" I asked. 
"Nope. We're good. Let just go." Kari smiled.   
Yeah, probably not a good idea to get into the middle of a riot just trying to find some potatoes and carrots.  As we drove away from the mess of the city we saw dozens of young men with masks on their faces, riding their motorcycles directly into the frenzy. They looked bent for a good fight.  I saw people in terror. People swinging their fists, and people caught up in the pure emotion of confusion. 
Had we arrived a minute earlier our family would have been separated and at ground zero in a riot. It's a one-way street, so I wouldn't have been able to get to the car.  The girls would have been a block away in the middle of a sea of people and the boy and I would have been stuck in the hype and the tear gas.  
Instead we are all safe, home together, and there is a song I'm about to teach them, called Oh Holy Night.  Praise God? 

One of the verses I find to be so very fitting in the midst of the turmoil here.  This place, bound by such a spiritual prison, with the high barbed walls of poverty and corruption always loomIng...and yet I hear another voice calling in the desert...
"Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Antithesis

Early in my photography years I learned an old rule of thumb in the arts. To better understand your composition and perfect your eye for capturing an image, take a picture and then turn it upside down. What sticks out? What seems foreign? Where does your eye naturally fall and where is the distraction?
I've since found that rule has a better application, a life application...

Sometimes when studying what Christ might be trying to say in the Scriptures, I can check a few commentaries, read 3 different translations, and usually get side-tracked in the detour poetry of Thee and Thou in a Fortnight. I drift off wondering something about Shakespeare or I rabbit-hole down to the Book of Martyrs and try to fathom how Sir Such-and-Such could go and kiss the stake by which they meant to burn him. Then I imagine what kind of karate jump spin kick I might employ if they tried that garbage on me in the name of the Lord, and before I know it I'm measuring my peanut-sized faith against the Greats and I've lost all sense of why I ever ventured to learn something in the first place... sigh... see how that happens?
In the end I have to look at the antithesis. It's a big word that basically just means to flip it upside down like the picture, and then study what He ISN'T saying...

'Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.' transforms into this:
"Rejoice never, pray occasionally, give thanks only in the good times, for this is NOT the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.'
I'm a ragamuffin through and through. I don't know much, but at the end of the day as my head hits the pillow, if I consider that my life better fit into the pajamas of the antithesis, it's here I know that I'm not living in the abundant life that God has prepared for me. It's in that sinking awareness that my spirit cries out, and if I care for anything, before the lantern is snuffed and the light goes out of this world, something must change.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Kari shared this with me, and I just wanted to pin it here to remember...

Sincerity means that the appearance and the reality are exactly the same. -- Oswald Chambers

Monday, December 2, 2013

Because He Has No Dawn

The drunk man on the street strove up to me and I could see and smell that once again the rum had taken its toll. He began with the usual belligerence, flailing his arms, yelling, pelting his stomach and telling me he was dying of hunger. I asked him to solve for me a riddle, how is it that he is every day so hungry, and yet every day so drunk? He again smacked his stomach and rained down curses. 

He drinks the alcohol and feels good, but he doesn't see that it's eating away at his stomach and his mind, and the truth is, it's really Satan that is having the feast.
"I will pray to Satan and ask him to cut my mouth so I cannot drink the alcohol!" He raved.
"You can if you want to, but you don't need to. God has more power and more authority. Instead of asking Satan to cut you, ask God to make Satan shut up. Instead of asking Satan to hurt you, ask God to save you." I said. 
The few times I've seen this man when he is sober, he is kind and gentle, though sad and discouraged. I know God wants him. He wants all of us. But how many of us are slaves to the lie that the Way Everlasting simply cannot be?
Why would a prisoner, fastened in chains, ask Satan to cut off his hands and feet to make him free, when God could make the chains to simply fall away?
This morning we dug into our Bibles and there was the answer, so sad and yet so filled with truth: 
"To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. " Isaiah 8:20.
Such a discouraging thought to crush the heart and break the bones. The old man hurts this way, he shakes his fist at God, he complains and yells and stomps his feet...because he has no dawn
Satan has within his clever scheming devised such a veil as to cloak our hearts from the shining noon day Sun! That cover is our own evil desires, and we wontingly chase after them until one day we realize we've ourselves been chased away. 

Can you imagine? Not to wake and see the light of a new day...dawning? The color of discouraged blackness transformed into hope, colors of purple and violet, red and gold. 
No warmth to chase the chill from the very marrow of our souls. No zeal for something fresh. No basking in the glorious.  Not this day, not ever...

Can you hear the charge?  The trumpet blast? To the teaching and to the testimony!
There IS a dawn! It's more beautiful than any eye can behold. It's coming, charging, in an unrelenting breaking forth, consuming the cold, dark night of every soul that is lost unto itself and cannot find its way. The colors splash onto the page of every heart in crimson words that cannot be washed away....
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
How did the old man receive my words?
I asked him to give up his alcohol for three weeks, not just for one day because any fool can do that, but for three weeks to save his money and follow the Lord.  Then I asked him to come back to see me at the end of that time and tell me if he is still hungry.
He called down curses and walked away, totally disgusted with the very idea of me and our conversation, but mostly just disgusted with God.
It's not up to me.  I can't make him see the dawn, even though I know it's there.  France is there.  How many of us know that but will never set foot upon her shores?  'No man comes to the Father except through Me'.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Under the Wire!

My daughter and I were on the motorcycle, driving down a Haiti road to mark churches where we haven't yet visited to give Bibles. She was my spotter, looking for churches that were open for worship while I kept my eyes on the road. Coming to an intersection I saw two men standing in the middle of the road with their backs to me. People stand in the road all the time. But then I noticed one man was holding a broomstick. They both turned to look at us as we approached, and that's when I saw it, a black wire running from the telephone pole down to the broomstick in his hand. It was a live electric wire, and we were driving straight into it! 

There was no time to brake, hardly even time to react. I laid the bike down, and the wire came so close that it grazed the brim of my hat as we went tumbling. Any closer and it would have either taken our heads off or electrocuted us.
Soon as I got my feet under me I turned to find Abby who was still pinned under the motorcycle, trying to get her foot free. When I was a kid the same thing happened to me, getting a leg pinned under a motorcycle, and by the time I got the bike off of me, there was a white-hot blister in the exact imprint of the engine. It was one of the worst burns in my life, and that memory was racing through my mind when I jerked the bike up off of her, only to see there wasn't even a mark! 

I asked where she was hurt, and she said it didn't really hurt at all.

People came running from everywhere. An old man began ripping into the two young men for such a foolish act. They'd been attempting to steal the electricity from the lines.

I checked Abby out. She'd bit her lip and there was a tiny burn and scrape on her leg. My knee was bruised, but other than that, we were fine! My neck and back were jarred, but nothing was broken. I was mad at first, ready to clean some guy's clock, and he stood waiting to see what I would do. Because he wanted to steal electricity my daughter and I were almost killed.

The motorcycle clutch was broken along with some wires to the starter, the mirror and turn signal, but other than that, it was in running condition.
I remembered why we were traveling this road, to find new churches and to give the Word of God. I became immediately aware that until these young men crack their own Bible, my daughter and I represent that Word.
I told the man there would be no trouble. Besides, I could see the community was already thinking him quite the fool. 

I also told one man that when people are driving they aren't going to see a single bare wire. The old man was yelling the same thing in his ear.
We turned the bike for home, shaken but grateful to still be alive. Abby was hugging me tightly and said, "Well, my first wreck on a motorcycle, and I'm so thankful it happened to us, Daddy. Right behind us there was another motorcycle with a woman and her little baby on her lap. If it wasn't us, it would have been them. Besides, maybe there was something further down the road that would have really hurt us, and God was just using this to keep us from it. When you go back out to look for churches, can I still come?"

Praise the Lord for His protection, and for this little 10-year-old who gets it so much more than I ever did.

Now, on to fix the bike... :)