Category Archives: Worship

When Faiths Collide: Finding Myself in Ash Wednesday

I stood in line for the symbolic smudge of ashes on the first day of Lent, unprepared for what that touch to my forehead would to do my heart.

In the glow of candlelight, tears spilled unbidden. And there she was again, standing at the altar. Skinny, smiling shyly as she posed in her white communion dress, mousy brown hair peaking from beneath a froth of netting, white anklets scrunched above black patent leather shoes. Ardent in her practice of a faith that formed her, the girl’s eyes glowed with the joy of taking her first communion. Her first confession.

Her first receiving of the ashes.

Did she know that five decades later, she’d stand at another altar and her heart would bust wide open, full with the joy of taking back the precious meaning of the ashes?

I turned away from Catholicism as a high school senior, lured by the popular youth group and upbeat music offered by my friends’ non-denominational church. I wanted guitars and games, not incense, chiming bells and Latin liturgy. A copy of The Living Bible went with me to college. My Catholic scriptures were left behind on a bedroom shelf.

An outdoor wedding ceremony officiated by the pastor of that non-denominational church set me on a path toward spiritual awakening and growth. Women in the church mentored and encouraged my still-ardent love for Jesus, and I learned to share Him with others. In years to come, pastors from various denominations and other churches contributed to a deepening faith that sustained me through trials — divorce, loss, cancer.

The security of a faith built on decades spent living out God’s Word among His people allowed me to listen when a gentle ripple of longing began to surface. In the beginning, I couldn’t put a word to the yearnings that bubbled in a quiet corner of my soul. I love my church. I’m in deep agreement with the doctrine and theology of our evangelical protestant beliefs and practices. But, like a lamp lit by a low-wattage bulb, my rock-solid faith lacked some of the glow that burned across the years from the altar of that little Catholic chapel of my childhood.

Then, last summer I met two faithful women doing a work of revival at a Catholic retreat center, and the yearnings slipped into place.

Beauty, symbolism, tradition, corporate prayer, holy seasons. I had shed them like an ill-fitting coat in my youth. Now, I felt the loss of their weight and warmth.

I soaked up the joy of those women doing a work for Jesus, offering to add a work of my own to their revival project. As we talked and planned, I recognized and understood what shined from their eyes when they spoke to me of tradition. Of miracles, healings, sacraments. Of a church history that, in many ways, all Christian faiths share.

It was familiar because it was part of me.

My stepmom passed away shortly after these women completed their project. It was inevitable that my grieving was bound up by their unwavering commitment to The Church. And by my stepmother’s. Her collection of Catholic icons, prayer books, rosaries, holy medals and other symbols of faith passed through my hands. They gave weight once again to what I’d known and lived, to the faith that formed me.

You can turn from one good thing and replace it with another. But can you wipe away the imprint that one thing left on your soul? Or can you acknowledge the stirrings and make space for them to be welcomed in the now?

Our evangelical Christian church chose to observe Ash Wednesday for the first time in many years. Dipping back into the dust of a tradition that lay at the foundation of my faith brought me face-to-face with the ardent little Catholic girl who was the Bride of Jesus.

Her eyes still glow.

“Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19b

 

 

 

At the Halfway Mark, Some Thoughts on Lent

We will celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in less than three weeks. Halfway through Lent, I’m pondering what the Lenten season means to me, and revisiting an experience from two years ago that turned around my thinking on the tradition of “giving up” for Lent. Reflecting on that experience helped me see that maybe it’s not what we give up that defines our commitment to Christ, but what we do…..or don’t do.

Here are some thoughts on penitence from March, 2014:

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One year it was chocolate. Another, caffeine. A couple of times, it was television. And growing up as a good Catholic girl, it was always meat on Fridays.

What did you give up for Lent?

Perhaps the better question is “What will you GIVE?”

It’s the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday — the first Sunday of Lent — and we’re sitting in an old brick church in downtown Nashville, Tennessee with two of our sons who now call this city home. Surrounded by folks who mostly exhibit a bent toward the “artistic”, it’s obvious we’re from out-of-town. But the warm handshakes and familiar worship music remind us that we’re all “the church”, whatever our roots.

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Worship ends and a young woman with purple hair takes the microphone to share with us her recent experience as a missionary at Rapha House in Saigon where children are rescued from sex trafficking. A beautician by trade, she is passionate about the work being done there and says she didn’t want to leave. She hopes to go back.

We hear of upcoming events in the church — retreats for men and women, outreaches in the community. This small congregation with a focus on missions is also meeting needs in its own backyard.

But it’s when the young pastor takes the stage that God pulls me toward the heart of His church with this message:

“We define ourselves by what we don’t do.”

As he draws attention to this Season of Lent, the pastor talks about fasting, reading the Book of John weekly, slowing down to listen. But then he returns to it……

……what we don’t do.

The words have hung in the air all week. As we approach this second Sunday on our journey to the cross, I’m still rolling them around in my head.

“Works” are not what God requires. I understand that. It’s not what we DO that earns us the right to call ourselves followers of Christ. Then again, in the literal sense, NOT doing something — eating meat, watching television, consuming caffeine — does not define me, either. During these 40 days, I can forgo luxuries as an act of penitence, but I also know that I need only ask and I am forgiven. Sacrifice in the name of the One who made the ultimate sacrifice is a good thing. But does it define me?

Here’s what I think: It’s a two-sided coin.

  1. Choose not to indulge in practices, attitudes, thoughts that are not God-honoring. If this is what I don’t do, it is good. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:5-8
  2. Choose not to reach out to those in need, to travel across the world and show love to a violated child, to spend time reading God’s word and beseeching Him in prayer. If it is these things that I don’t do, how is that good?  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ” Matthew 25:45; and “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.” Psalm 49:3

Choose either side of the coin, and I am defined by what I don’t do.

So back to our question. What will you GIVE for Lent?

While 17 percent of the adult population, according to a recent survey by Barna Group, will be giving up some form of food or technology for Lent, maybe the rest of us can decide what we will GIVE.

To give our time, love, devotion, energy, attention, wisdom, affection — all things we sometimes don’t do. Lay these alongside things we’ve determined that, as new creatures in Christ, we don’t do — anger, rage, malice, slander. Isn’t this the ultimate gift?

Given in the name of the Christ, who freely gives us grace, mercy and forgiveness, these may be the greatest acts of penitence.

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When What You Need Is God Straight-Up

I spent three days in the city worshiping and listening, then another three wishing I could be back in that place of joy and inspiration.

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I invested hours reading and writing about a movie and book I never intend to consume, but which consumed me as I fretted over the pain and confusion they cause.

I joined in a revival that’s spreading through my community, and I rejoiced over lives changed and churches united.

And today, after all of this, I wandered the frozen valley that is my world — lost and empty and hungry and not knowing why.

Standing with the sun to my back and cold biting my cheeks, I spotted tiny footprints criss-crossing the snow. Rabbits show up at our house every morning, a half dozen or so, in search of food where they find little more than snowbanks and cold, hard earth. After their slippery journey from the underbrush to our yard, they gather beneath our copper beech tree for a sparse feast on seed pods, fallen during autumn’s shedding.

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Rabbit tracks to nowhere and everywhere. The primal search for food and filling.

Don’t I know just how that feels?

Every good and difficult thing that I choose in walking out this journey toward Christ and His filling feels like a sparse feast some days.

Not enough. Never enough.

But I make tracks and I do good things, good for others and for my soul. I dispute the distasteful and I embrace the beautiful. I stretch myself to join hands to love the lost, and I receive the prayers of a needy little old man in words I can barely understand.

I make tracks, only to find that I am still more than a little bit distasteful and lost and needy myself. And empty.

Shaking off the chill of my walk through winter, I realize this: I’ve been taking joy sideways.

All the good and important things that have been filling my days and my heart aren’t the straight-up food I need to fill this “God-shaped vacuum” in my soul. That phrase, one I’ve repeated often (attributed to the 17th century writer Pascal) actually reads like this:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”

“…..in other words by God himself.”

I may be inspired by man’s words and by worship to our God, and I can feast on the satisfaction of pointing others toward His truth. I can even indulge in the goodness of work well-done and prayers well-intended.

But they are little more than joy taken sideways, when what I need is joy straight-up.

It’s the kind of joy I have known only when I spend time quietly in His presence, in conversation and worship that only He and I can hear.

I once painted these words from Psalm 16:11 on the walls of my house. They’re etched in the wall of that vacuum only He can fill:

You will show me the path that leads to life;
    your presence fills me with joy
    and brings me pleasure forever.

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‘God Still Speaks to Us Today’: Write for 31 Days

 http://write31days.com/My “God-Spot” for Day 30 of Writing for 31 Days is my dear friend Betsy Tacchella. Betsy and I are of the same generation and sisters in Christ. She is a wonderful speaker, mentor, author and an inspiration to so many. She recently published her second book, “Speak to Me, Lord, I’m Listening.” It is a wonderful collection of biblical examples of God speaking a rhema word as well as Betsy’s stories of hearing God’s voice in her own life. Here, she answers my questions and shares an excerpt from her book. To read more posts from my 31 days of blogging, click on the button above.

1. What is your desire in writing this book?

Betsy Tacchella

Betsy Tacchella

My desire in writing “Speak to Me, Lord, I’m Listening,” is to raise the reader’s awareness that God still speaks to us today just as He did throughout the Bible. Through more than fifty stories, you will recognize that you, too, have heard God’s voice of encouragement, comfort and direction. Have you ever had a Bible verse seem to pop off the page, had a friend “just happen” to call at a critical time, had someone speak words of life to you? Our personal relationship with God is more than us speaking to God. It is also Him speaking to us through Scripture, in prayer, through people, in the midst of circumstances, through visions and dreams, and through His creation.

2. Explain a “rhema” word and describe a couple of ways God can speak personally to us.

God loves to speak to us in a very personal way. When He does this, the Greek word is “rhema.” While “logos” is the whole written word of God, rhema is a personal word. Used seventy times in the New Testament, it refers to a specific word from God for a particular situation. That’s why Jesus said, “…Man shall not live by bread alone but by every (personal rhema) “word” that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). Another time rhema is used is Rom. 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the (personal rhema) “word” of Christ.” One of the joys of the Christian life is listening for God’s voice, heeding what He says and reaping the blessings that follow.

3. How did you come to write your first book, “Mother Has Alzheimers”?

As my mother went through her demise with Alzheimer’s, God seemed to whisper to me to journal everything she went through and any answers to prayer. I determined that I was going to expect to see God at every turn and He did not disappoint me. With several years of notes, he prompted me to collate my writings and turn them into a manuscript. I had several 8 x 11 copies made into loosely bound booklets. For a number of years, I loaned the booklets out to people caring for an Alzheimer’s relative. People seemed to be touched and helped through reading about my experience, telling me that they both laughed and cried at my stories. Then one day twenty years later, God clearly revealed to me that I should have the book published. My husband said he had always felt it should have broader exposure. So, today, that book is also available at various e-book locations, including amazon.com.

4. Do you have plans to write another book?

When I first began writing, I felt I had four books in my heart. Two have been published. Two more await; and only God knows if there are more after that. Over the years, I have journaled various opportunities God has given me to share the Lord with people. Some have received the Lord as a result, and some have not. This book will be down to earth stories of how each of these witnessing occasions unfolded. Many are incredibly unique, stories only God could have orchestrated. Another book that is on my heart is a children’s book. This one will contain true stories about raising our son, Mike. We were older parents when Mike came along and perhaps more seasoned in our faith walk and more geared toward intentional parenting. Because of that, there were many situations in which Bill and I had opportunity to speak into Mike’s life and often times when he made wise decisions. I’ve always felt his life stories would be worth sharing as encouragement for young boys to emulate his choices.

5. Besides being an author, do you also speak about your books?

Yes, I have had many wonderful opportunities over the years to speak at various church and secular groups. Before I ever published a book, I had spoken many times on the topic of hearing God’s voice. The thing I love about that topic is that there are always fresh stories to tell. I love telling stories and always mix them with some solid Bible teaching when I speak. I have a passion for God’s word and made a covenant with God that whether I speak on “Mother Has Alzheimer’s,” “Speak to Me, Lord, I’m Listening,” or any other subject, His name will always be lifted high. I am available to speak at women’s retreats, conferences, seminars, banquets, etc. On my blog,www.betsytacchella.com, you can also note other subjects I enjoy speaking about.

Here is an excerpt from Betsy’s book, “Speak to Me, Lord, I’m Listening”:

Hearing God’s Voice in a Hike along the Colorado River

I love hiking trails, rivers, waterfalls, and especially the mountains of Colorado. I especially enjoy how God speaks to me on our various road trips. As we wandered along the highway next to the Colorado River one year, the Lord revealed a clear lesson from the river. For many miles, I observed the dynamics of this spirited, energetic river. Dashing over rocks and boulders, this massive flow of water raged undaunted past anything in its path. Sometimes, only small rocks blocked the way. Glistening, white spray was the only visible evidence that the river had collided with anything. Other times, the water impacted large boulders as it hastened toward its destination, sending up a violent, crashing surge of foam as though proclaiming, “Do not mess with me!” These class five rapids spewing white water gave the only evidence of obstruction. Yet, nothing stopped the flow. Charging at accelerated speed through its channel, the river relentlessly followed the passageway carved out before it.

Whatever the opposition, the river coursed onward, single-minded in purpose as it hastened toward the ocean. No obstacle was big enough to bring the river to a halt.  Water either surged over the tops of rocks or cut a path around them, eventually wearing them down, always finding a way to continue its journey.

As I watched this interesting phenomenon, a Bible verse came to mind and the Lord began to speak a lesson to me. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it”  (I Cor. 10:13).

Pondering that verse, I began to see that the rocks and boulders in the Colorado River were like the temptations and trials we have in life. A way of escape always materialized for the water, either around the rocks or over them. Single-minded, the water flowed onward to the sea. In the same way, God promises to provide a way of escape for us. He is a faithful God who can be trusted. As we focus on the Lord, walking in His will as our destination, He faithfully provides whatever escape we need around the rocks and boulders in our lives. I felt comforted by the river and the message God gave me.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ By this He spoke of the Spirit…” John 7:38-39

Betsy Tacchella has lived in Michigan for over 30 years. She and her husband of 50 years have three children and nine grandchildren. Betsy holds a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Trinity Theological Seminary and has been teaching the Bible for over forty years. She also mentors women and does public speaking. Betsy writes about hearing God’s voice on her blog, www.betsytacchella.com.

 

Selah Worship: Writing for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/One of my favorite authors is Madeleine L’Engle. I enjoyed sharing “A Wrinkle in Time” and her other fantasies with my children, but I especially love her non-fiction. Recently, while reading in “A Circle of Quiet” (Book One of The Crosswick Journals), I found mention of the Italian composer Palestrina. Naturally, I was curious, so I found performances of his Masses on YouTube. Most are very lengthy, but I’ve left one for you at the end of this post sung by The Choir of Kings College at Cambridge. It’s followed up with something in an entirely different vein that I found a couple of years ago that I absolutely love. I think you will, too. It is my prayer that you will find yourself in a worshipful attitude while listening to both.

Before I leave, I want to offer a copy of L’Engle’s “A Circle of Quiet” to the first person making a request in the comments. I have two copies and I’m paying it forward with the one in the best condition. Madeleine is a woman with words to be shared, like this from her book “Walking on Water”:

“We are to be children of the light, and we are meant to walk in the light, and we have been groping along in the darkness. The creative act helps us to emerge into the light….”

Exercise your creative muscles and “emerge into the light.”

 

Living an Easter Sunday Life: On “To Do” Lists and Brokeness

My “Things To Do” list for this week is long, and there’s some important stuff on there.140414_0001

But this morning, my head is filled with another list that speaks to me of Eternity.

We’re stepping into that painful climb to Gilgotha. It’s the Holy Week. Christ has been heralded as King. Soon He’ll be tortured as blasphemer. Every Lenten season, in this year more than most, I am walking with those women, following Christ’s trail of blood.

I want one last chance to kneel at His feet, to hear His words, to look in His eyes and celebrate what I behold — God.

Bible open on my bed, I know I have that chance. More than one, many every day. I can read His words and roll them around on my tongue. I can bring that list of ways I want to know Him more, questions I want to ask, thoughts I’d like to explore. And I can spread my list before Him and point, saying “What about this?” and “Please, show me that.” I know He’s listening. And I’m listening. On good days, when my “to do” list isn’t haunting, I am listening.

That’s at the top of my Eternal list — to listen. To hear Him…

in the laughter of friends,

in the birds rejoicing outside my window,

in the whispers that come when I still my heart to hear,

in words penned by those who also follow the trail of blood.

“I am broken at your feet. Like an alabaster jar…..I will bow my life at your feet.” ~ Rend Collective

Number 2 on my Eternal list — to look.

“We do not look with our mouths” is perhaps the wisest statement I’ve heard lately — and that from the mouth of a little one asking Mama to pay attention, not just mouth affirmation.

I played “I Spy” with God this weekend as I met fellow readers/writers from around the world on a college campus in Michigan. I saw Him in the broken and the blessed. He was there….

in the gentle spirit of a poet traversing the winter of her life,

in the kindness of a young woman leading her elderly mother across the campus,

in the beauty displayed for us by creative hands,

in the smile of the check-out lady at Johnny’s cash register.

And today I can celebrate!

Praise should be at the top of my list — every day. Thank you, Jesus, that I can get out of bed, stretch to the heavens, appease my hunger, use my mind, work with my hands. I celebrate His grace, His mercy. I revel in the onset of Spring, in the blessing of new human life.

And in the resurrection promise that is His to give to this one so unworthy.

This Lenten season, I’ve walked in the shoes of John, the Beloved Disciple. While he was exiled on Patmos, God revealed to John the sacrificial Lamb, slain so that the Lion could triumph (Revelation 5:5-6). As John stood witness before the throne, he heard a mighty angel proclaim that only the Lamb was deemed worthy to take the scroll, which bore all of life’s lament and promise, and to open its seals:

“because you were slain, and with our blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.” ~Rev. 5:9-10.

Did you hear that? Do you know? The blood of Christ, the slain Lamb, purchased you and me for God. We are His kingdom, here on earth. We have been called to serve the Lion.

My heart will break on Thursday when we partake of a final meal with Christ, and it will bleed on Friday to see Him condemned and crucified. But it will rejoice come Sunday, when in the midst of the same trial and heartache suffered by so many in my world, I gather with them to live out “an Easter Sunday faith in a Good Friday world.”

Today, as I yearn for Sunday, I lay my list and my broken self at the feet of Jesus “like an alabaster jar.” Won’t you join me here?

What Is God Calling You To? And Will You Say Yes?

Theologian and philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

Bonhoeffer was referring to Christ’s call to a surrendered life…..to a life given over to following Him.

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But can’t we also know that the call will come while we are on the path….while we follow, head down, feet to the ground, intent on the journey.

And the call may be only this:

Come. Rest.”

When He calls, do we turn from those things we THINK He has already called us to do? That list of “To Do”, the good endeavor, the friend in need, the task laid out. Do we turn from them and turn to Him and say “Yes”?

So the question is not “What is God calling you TO DO?” Rather, “What is He calling you TO?”

To what is He drawing you? And to what must you die so that you may answer “Yes!”

He calls me to rest, and I must die to self when my satisfaction comes in productivity, in crossing tasks off that list.

He calls me to prayer, and I must die to distraction.

He calls me to service, and I must become humble, dying to what I consider a higher purpose.

He calls me to giving, and I must die to pride, to the fear that what I have to give will not be enough.

He calls me to worship, and I must die to self and give Him ALL.

He calls me to hearing, and I must be silent, so that as my voice dies, His voice is heard.

He calls me to stop and to play, and I must die to that ticking clock.   No…Time…Not…Now…

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Today, the call is for rest. This was not on my calendar. But in my rest, I consider this — in each day, He will call. If I will turn my face to Him, I will hear and answer “Yes!”

“Seeking God and His will must remain our constant desire and aspiration, even after we’ve begun seeing His strength demonstrated in our lives. Otherwise, we will be submerged beneath the momentum of human approval, momentary convenience, personal desires, or misplaced ambitions…..our level of steadfastness will be equal to our level of fellowship with the Father.” Priscilla Shirer in “Gideon: Your Weakness, God’s Strength.

So today, what is God is calling you TO? Will you hear, and will you answer “Yes”?

When Cancer Enters Your Landscape

My friend sat at her daughter’s bedside, holding her hand, whispering prayers as the daughter lay in the Intensive Care Unit. This young, single mother had just barely survived an automobile crash.

The man she hoped to build a life with did not.

Healing — of heart and body — have taken many prayers. For my friend, for her daughter and for the family of that young man.

Ten months ago tomorrow, this same friend sat at my bedside, holding my hand, offering prayers as I awaited surgery to remove a cancerous lump from my breast. Physical healing began that day, as doctors used skill to carve out the fast-growing tumor, to dislodge a lymph node. With the news that the cancer had not spread, that nothing had been left behind, I whispered thanksgiving.

A plan was made for radiation, medication, therapy, lifestyle adjustments……and the healing continues.

I leaned heavily on my Lord and Savior in the days and weeks that followed — lean on Him still — asking Him to help me understand and accept this new reality that has entered my life’s landscape.

Cancer

As I lay on the hospital gurney receiving radiation, I felt blessed, because in the midst of my treatment and healing, I attended the funeral of woman who began her journey through cancer three years ago. She fought strong and hard, and today, she is a Survivor in eternity.

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I cannot share my testimony of recovery and survival without thinking of all who bear wounds, who stand toe-to-toe with the trials of our earthly life and fight to survive, to recapture “normal”, or to accept that some things will never be the same.

Some of us receive a pink ribbon and a label — Survivor. And our bodies bear visible scars that mark the spot where healing began.

Others suffer with wounds that are deep, too deep for a surgeon’s scalpel. Healing may begin, only for the scabs to be ripped open by new hurts, new reasons to ask “Why?”

It has been that way for my friend. She has endured a husband’s betrayal, the loss of a ministry, the sudden death of a son-in-law, her own physical challenges, and now the trauma of her daughter’s injuries and dashed hopes.

And still my friend raises her hands in worship and I stand beside her, my own hands and heart lifted in praise to the Healer who walks with every wounded Survivor. We both bear scars, and we both smile through tears as we celebrate Our Father’s Goodness.

God does not promise a life free from pain, from loss. The truth is that nowhere in The Word does He say He “will not give us more than we can bear”. Often misquoted are these words from Paul:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  I Corinthians 10:13

On some days, He DOES give us more than we can bear. Who can learn that they have cancer and not grieve? Who can hold the hand of a heartbroken, wounded daughter and not cry out? Who can cradle a child who will never walk, sit unassisted, play basketball, drive a car because a virus invaded his body, and not plead for mercy? And who can bury a 25-year-old son and not question the One who holds life in His hand?

He hears and He grieves. Most importantly,  He bears it with us and for us.

To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever
Psalm 30:8-12

(This post first appeared as a guest blog at Life Beyond the Picket Fence.)

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Prayers for the Forgotten Children of Honduras

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Houses clustered on the hillside outside of Tegucigalpa.

A cloud sits on the mountain directly before me, hiding it from view. I’ve watched those clouds and mist hover and lift each morning this week as I’ve taken time to be with the Lord and to share with you reflections on this journey.

Soon, the clouds will lift and at the very top of the mountain I’ll spy one lone tree, standing separate from the others. I count on that tree to be there, proof that with determination and the right growing conditions, even one lone tree can flourish.

It’s like that with these boys and girls sheltered by Forgotten Children Ministries. As we learn snippets of their stories, it tears at the heart to know what they’ve experienced, where they’ve been, what they’ve seen. Most were alone, on the streets, doing whatever it took to survive. Some were in families too large to care for them, so they had to find a way to make it on their own.

But here, at FCM, they are learning to stand. Not just to survive, but to grow.

Last night, our final time of singing with the boys, they presented a skit about the Good Samaritan. Without words, but with exaggerated gestures and smiles on their faces, they acted out the parable from Luke 10. They are learning these stories, and others like them, but more. They are taught how to live like Jesus in the midst of poverty and chaos. They are learning to stand strong and reach for heaven.

As their bedtime drew close, the boys joined Stan in singing “Say My Name”. It is a song Stan composed after hearing a little boy beseech a team member over and over, asking that man to just say his name. The boy eventually chose to leave the shelter and is back on the street today, running with a gang. Stan shares that recently the young man found himself seated on a bus next to one of the older mission boys. He had a pistol in his pocket and gang orders to rob everyone on the bus. The wayward young one apparently remembered the love and shelter he had received at the mission, and chose not to rob his “friend”.

Developing hands on, loving relationships with these forgotten children, and with the families struggling to survive — that is the mission of Forgotten Children Ministries. The work will not end, and there will be fruit. There will continue to be boys and girls who grow into men and women who stand strong and reach for heaven.

The mist is lifting. The tree is still there, reaching, surviving.

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The girls at Grace Home, offering up a dance of praise.

Finding the Forgotten Children in Honduras: Part Five

“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.”  Jeremiah 29:11

God has His hands all over this mission to Honduras, and no truer evidence of His sovereignty could be seen than in the corrections He made in our plans on Wednesday evening.

After a long day of ministering to families on the hillsides, disabled children in the city and the boys at the farm, our team was looking forward to worshiping in the church at Monte Redondo last evening. Stan Nowell, founder of this ministry, returned from the U.S. to Tegucigalpa earlier in the afternoon and he was to deliver the message. Pastor Rudolpho would lead us in lively worship. We were excited.

Just a mile or so out of the city, our bus began making funny noises. Don’t ask me what happened; I just know it didn’t sound good. Our very capable bus driver, Marco Tulio, was dressed in his best white shirt for the church service, but he was out of the bus and under the chassis before anyone could suggest a change of clothes. Marco owns this bus and he is very responsible about keeping it in good running order, but too many runs on too many winding hillsides are taking their toll.

Strangers passing by offered help and suggestions, with one woman going off to find a friend who is a mechanic. In the meantime, the family of two of our interpreters provided a bus from their fleet and within half an hour, we were back on the road, too late for church and returning to the mission in the city.

Tegucigalpa is not a safe city, especially at night. By God’s providence, our bus broke down within yards of a city police station and we stopped in front of a slaughterhouse. While it was a bit disconcerting to be stuck along a busy highway, not to mention missing our evening of worship, we were grateful for the outcome. And it was interesting to notice how the famous Honduran “machismo” played out in an emergency. The young Honduran men from the mission who were riding to the church with us immediately stepped from the bus to see what they could do. And when we left the bus to board the next one, there was a line of strong young men keeping us safe in the transition.

Back at the mission, God’s plan for our evening played out in a sweet time of worshiping with and getting to know Stan. He is legendary at FCM and his story is compelling. The man has truly submitted his life to God and to this work in Honduras. Stan led the first mission to the street children of Tegucigalpa with a team from our church. The 13 boys Stan and our team picked up from the streets and bused to the farm were the beginning of Forgotten Children Ministries.

We may never know what was avoided or what impact was made by the detour God ordained for us last night, but I’ve learned to be excited and expectant when He steps in. Knowing He is in control makes it possible to rest in the knowledge that His plan is the GOOD one.

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The bulk of our work is behind us, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more opportunities to be His hands and feet today as we travel to Valley of the Angels for shopping and dinner. Later in the day, we’ll have one last visit with the girls at Grace Shelter, and I’ll be able to hug little Nayeli and recite the names of body parts that she is teaching me in Spanish. Before we leave for the day, I want to share a photo of a young man who surprised all of us with a moving testimony last Sunday in Monte Redondo. John is on his second mission to Honduras and his story of growth from the “typical American teenager” to the committed, God-fearing young man he is today had an impact on all of us.

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Team member John McKinney sharing his testimony with the help of our interpreter, Rigo.