Monday, December 9, 2013

The Door

The door.
It has a way through and a way out.
I consider it as I stand about.
The way it is built strong,
I cannot relate with its structural stays
knowing within this door a body lays
on a bed of white sheets.
White, a reflection of my hands as I hold them tight
in anticipation of a long-suffering night.
For this body is hooked up to machines
and I often do not know if this body will sleep in peace.
The door.
It has a way through and a way out.
A frame of passageway I wonder about.
Knowing within this door a body lays
with a head and a heart and blood running through those veins.
Again I look down and see a tag
with the words "CHAPLAIN" written in black.
I've been named with so much to give
and what if my words are not what they need to live?
Oh, but I am reminded:
Words are not needed.
Only a hand to hold and a heart wide-open.
These are the gifts we are given.
So, I told those hands to open and my feet to move
and I knew I had nothing to loose
because we are given a great gift of connection!
One where we find love and affection.
Moving towards the door,
I looked harder than before
and found as I walked through
a face much like my own.
And this is where the healing takes place
when we look at each other and can see a face
and not just some colored space where
there might be an eye and a nose,
but a face in which communion in brokenness knows
there is the gift of
the door.

In my work as an intern chaplain at the hospital, I find myself standing before many doors every day. Each door is a physical and metaphorical passageway into someone else's life. I am reminded often as I walk through these doorways what a gift I have been given as a broken human being to have the opportunity to connect with another's heart in a matter of moments. It's an extremely humbling experience. Now, full and deep connection doesn't always take place and I respect and can often relate to the patient's boundaries for when they do not feel comfortable sharing, but when connection does happen it is a beautiful awakening in which I realize the patient and I are not much different from one another. We are broken human beings in need of a Savior who will restore us. May we become aware of the great gift we are given in each other and feel the full weight of the importance of being with someone, valuing them. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

To Wrestle is a Good Thing

I need it. You need it. The person you work with needs it. The rambunctious kids in Bangladesh need it. Even the people who have the beauty of softness and peace in their eyes need it. We all just need time to wrestle.

A woven grass mat lay beneath my cris-crossed legs as the long-awaited sunlight lit the courtyard in the middle of the receiving center at Bangla Hope. It was late December and the fog had fallen upon this little country like a damp blanket, shielding us from the sun for almost two weeks. But as Friday afternoon came like a gift, so did the sun, and we sat in the courtyard on a woven mat just after nap-time.

Lisa and Kelsey had been visiting for Christmas and it was hard to tell who was more excited about their visit, the kids or me! The last full-day of their visit arrived and so here we sat on the woven mat in the grass.

I remember sitting down first and seeing the little boys come running towards me. All of sudden, I was on the ground as little bodies pushed the full force of their body weight right into my shoulders and stomach! At this point I was on the ground with three boys on top of me and two more on their way, giggling and making play growling sounds all the way. Alright, you want to wrestle?, I thought,  you asked for it!

We wrestled for a few more minutes till we were all out of breath. Then one of the cooks brought out a huge bag of rice balls for everyone to snack on and we feasted calmly on the mat in the grass enjoying the sweet treat.

It's been eight months since I landed in San Francisco in utter awe of the clear blue skies and clean carpet of the airport wearing a bandana and my shalwar kamis. Eight months of taking in America with new eyes and discovering the amount of internal struggle around me. The word "struggle" usually comes with a negative connotation, but I believe it doesn't have to. A struggle is a process, an action of wrestling to overcome. And may I even go as far to say that this is a good thing to do? To struggle? Am I crazy?

Hear me out, complacency is not a place we want to find ourselves too often. If we are just "okay" with how life is and happens around us then something is missing. When we find something that makes us excited or gets our stomachs churning then we know we are alive! This is where the wrestling comes in.

We have to have time to wrestle! With the good and the bad, because that's how you find out if it is a good or bad thing by wrestling, pushing it around in our minds, pinning it down and staring it straight in the face, and perhaps ending up on our backs, laughing our heart out at the joy we find.

So, this is what I have been doing a lot of lately. Wrestling with all the knowns and unknowns in my life until I come to a place of discovery, make a conscious choice to distance myself from the bad and moving forward to grasp the good with all I have and be thankful.

My Thankful list today:

The tree that is on fire with color in front of Chan Shun!
My little red road bike "Penny"
Random dinners with friends throughout the week
Long walks in the glowing light of Fall at dusk
Wise old ladies in the hospital who are still smiling

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dark Brown On White

A pillar of fog, steam climbs towards the ceiling. The new Gungor album plays to the beat of my wondering as it travels a road of mountains and grassy fields. The windows are both open and through them the outside comes in; a brisk, brilliant Fall day. Two sweaters wrap me up tight and this moment is beautiful as rice cooks in the corner and the music wanders on with my soul in tow. And for the first time in a long time I feel present in the moment, paying attention to what life consists of in the here and now. Warmth, rice, and melodies mixing and rising.

I look up to the brick wall and find deep brown eyes and lips smiling back at me. Pictures from another place. And it reminds me of the ever-present question that is asked of my today, "How was your experience?"

What a question! Does the "asker" even know what they have asked, I often wonder. Their care is apparent and is valued. But, how do I take the smile of a child and have words flow and form into the same picture?

For you hold the depth of an ocean in your eyes,
little one. The deep brown of wonder,
of love, of loss, of the growing your body still has to take.
Little one, your eyes are a pool of gentleness,
of grace that holds you together,
a grace foreign to your race.
Show them, little one, through eyes of light,
that loss and abandonment will not be the deciding factor tonight.
But, instead, show them your eyes,
the contrast of color: dark brown on white,
that constants aren't of this green and blue orb,
but of the light that pricks through the darkness;
stars on a canvas, black.
Look up, little one, and your eyes will reflect,
the beauty of the broken and a love that does not forget.

So, "How was your experience?" is a question we use as a definition, a point of quick collection, of summary. And I choose to respond with "life." Life happened and with it came immense joy, suffering, and a ton of learning!

May I, as a returned student missionary, continue to choose life and live out the lessons I have learned and let the joy I experienced seap through to my today where my experience becomes my reality which will continue to impact who I am and those around me. This is my prayer. May it be so.

*This is written in honor of those precious children who have stolen my heart and for my fellow returning Student Missionaries who answer this question daily.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Word Drinking

Word drinking. It's a lifestyle. When you soak in words far past the obvious and dig straight to the simple depth of a phrase. Then you let it sit there and mix with your soul. You can find truth, beauty, and a pathway.  And when you take the time to walk down that path you will find yourself face to face with another whose heart is searching and with whom you find much in common. If you walk a little farther and around a bend, you too will find pathways of your own where words and ideologies grow and bloom along the way. Humanity. Expression. Longing. This is the journey of self-actualization.

My fingers leaf through the see-through pages of my pocket-sized, stitches coming loose, brown leather version of the Good Book and I know what I'm looking for. My page-thumbing is intentional. I'm looking for those soul-open words of the Psalmist. And the moment I mention the poet, your mind leaps to the image of an emotional wreck of a writer. That's true. David was searching and walking down his own pathways and watching the seeds of his thoughts sprout, grow, and burst with color all around him. He let it out! This guy was going somewhere, he was on a journey.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger - so why should I tremble? When evil people come to destroy me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will know no fear. Even if they attack me, I remain confident. The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most - is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord's perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. At his Tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music. 
Listen to my pleading, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, "Come and walk with me." And my heart responds, "Lord, I am coming." Do not hide yourself form me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don't leave me now; don't abandon me, O God of my salvation! Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the path of honesty, for my enemies are waiting for me to fall. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I've never done and breathe out violence against me. Yet I am confident that I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." (Psalm 27 NLT)
David is walking his own pathway here. He's already drank the words of promise in (Psalm 23) and now he's claiming them and working out what those mean in his own life. He's coming to a place of conviction! Self-actualization, or maybe more accurately, a Theistic view of self-actualization: his existence defined by the Father.

Conviction is essential to survival and ultimately to thrive. It's a journey. It involves vulnerability, connection, and deep word drinking. Searching out and holding onto our beliefs is a beautiful pathway of learning more about others who have walked the path and coming to a place where you define what makes life worth living and who we are at our core and how this will seep into the lives around us.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


The piano began to play and everyone stood. Middle-ranged notes told the story and all gathered there knew this song was for them. And the song beheld all; the utter wretchedness, the tears, the first glimpse of the Lover, the traveled way. The notes mingled and ran together and light streamed through the branches overhead. There were no walls around the piano and the people gathered, because it wasn't about the walls at all, but faces. And they all stood in a circle around a tree, waiting.

The music began to build in the most quiet and full way as the notes climbed further up the scale as if they were traveling as water does, rippling over the rocks after the cascade of a waterfall.

Gently, someone across the circle took hold of the person's hand next to them. Standing on soft mossy ground, hands reached out and connected. Connected, the circle complete, and the piano player kept building the quiet climax of the noted melody.

Then it happened. It started quiet with the music and a word formed on the lips gathered around to make the song whole. A few strong voices whispered the word while it took others moments to form as the fullness of such a love penetrated them. All joined in and began to express the overflowing of their souls,

"Holy, holy... Holy, holy."

Oh! It was breathtaking to behold the sound of such a verse being sung by humans. You see, the gathering included everyone. Everyone; the faithful father and mother, the light-filled daughter, the generations of the deceived, and the wild, searching man whose light had not yet been lit again. All had the potential of light. All broken, all connected. All singing, "Holy."

The music changed slightly and rang with anticipation as eyes searched the rough texture of the tree in front of them. Its roots rippled out like waves, laying the foundation for growth. Strong, secure, firm. Tatooed with the mistakes of the gathered, the tree bore them all.

Then the expected happened and everyone waiting stood tall and singing louder than before the words of the One who was set apart. A man with dark hair broke through the circle bearing an ax in his right hand. Walking boldly up to the tree without hesitation, he raised the ax above his head, took aim, and cut deep into that etched tree.

The tree began to sway and bend with the sound of sorrow as the wood creaked and broke with the final swings of the ax. The man with the dark hair bent down and tied a rope to the base of the scarred trunk. Standing, he pulled the slack over his shoulder and began to walk toward the perimeter of those gathered there. Dragging the broken tree behind him and with the weight of much on his shoulder, he said, "It is finished."

The gathered stood close together and watched, knowing this was not the end, but a beginning. Their wedding day was coming and the Lover would be among them again to close up the circle of the broken and make it whole. And the roots of the great tree would be there, laying the foundation for new growth. This is the hope of the people who sing, "Holy."

*I wrote this after hearing the song, "Holy (Wedding Day)" by The City Harmonic. "Holy" in Hebrew means "to be set apart for a special purpose."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

God's Blog

Addicted, captivated, and distracted! These words describe my behavior when reading. Currently, I am in the middle of three books...well, actually four. Bottom line: I love to read a written word and the journey to understand another being through those words.

Since being abroad, I have savored reading other people's blog entries. Minutes ago, I was staring at my computer screen wondering which blog I would read next, when I glanced across my white metal desktop at the new copy of the RSV of The Green Bible which was given to me by a friend today. Then I heard it, "There you go: you've got God's blog right there."

In a culture that derives its satisfaction on  instant communication we are an impatient people. Once in Bangladesh, while waiting for our bus to leave the station, the "schedule" changed a counted four times that day, resulting in us leaving 12 hours later than our expected time of departure (Well, expected by mostly me). As these changes kept happening through out the day, I leaned over to my Bangali friend and said, "I think Bangladesh is teaching me patience."

And my friend in turn said, "Yes, you Americans want everything now. It doesn't work that way here."

Hmm...impatience. I'm in the middle of four books, because I am too impatient to stick with just one story-line. I prefer the variety. Much like my times of prayer and worship; I want to feel God and I want to feel Him now. And there is value in the desire. We were created this way. Yet, in my life the least read book of my chosen four is the Bible. So, am I the one missing the point? And is it all about feeling, anyway?

Reading blogs intrigue me, because people are laying their thoughts out in the wide-open and if they are really okay with the "wide-open" business then it can get quite interesting and very compelling to experience those words. Tonight, I picked up a Jesus-follower's words and my eyes instantly found this title: The Purpose of This Book.

Good, I thought, now we are getting somewhere!

"Now Jesus did many signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may [continue to believe] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30,31)

"God is here whether we feel him or not." This was said by a close friend of mine and it turned my thoughts toward faith. Faith is deeper than feeling. Faith is searching what we know to be true and grasping hold of it to live. To live! And mercy isn't about us being prime candidates of a love campaign. Grace is about Jesus being here no matter the feeling. Immanuel: God with us.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All I Keep

Breathe deep and full.
I'm feeling the air come and go
feeling my chest rise and slow.
And I've got it.
I've got the time to be.
You've got it too
if you just stop and breathe.
Breathe deep, breathe full.
Taking a walk outside to see the moon whole.
And then
it all stills...

The world stops from time to time,
but have I the time to watch the world stop?
I do,
but I choose to walk more often than not.
The message is in the eyes of the stars
as they rhythmically twinkle:
Breathe deep, breathe full.
So, I fill that space behind my heart with air
and empty it as a kind of prayer
for who am I to breathe deep of love
and not have fear of a God
who binds and forms the mud that framed my lungs.
The air floats between these cheeks
and I savor the raw delight for He is all I keep.
For I am a creature of dust
a manifestation
of  breath.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


No, there's more.
Loved. Ahhh.
How did this fullness work its way in?
Stunningly unexpected, but oh so accepted.
At least I do now.
Oh how Someone could fill the soul
and see beauty despite the vines wrapped tight.
It's a puzzle to see Him write it in the dust,
but now the dust has been wiped away
and He doesn't see the puzzle,
but understands how we do.
I still see a mess and some brokenness.
Fingers touch my closed eyes as He smears this watered-dust over
and says, "Wash."
Washing I remember the touch
and I feel

Sunday, April 14, 2013

An Advocate for Love

Sometimes all that is needed is a cup of tea, a pencil, and words on beautiful paper around to feel full. There's some tea in a tinted jar inches away and an open cup warming my cheeks with its steam. Quiet moments stolen, given, lived in become awakenings. And they happen as often as the time we give to them.

"And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God...Father, I want those you gave me to be with me, right where I that your love for me might be in them exactly as I am in them." John 17:3,24,26

An Advocate has come forth from the dust for the dust-filled. This is it! This is when our dusty selves are validated! Value is restored in our advocate wanting to be with us, in us, for us. A love perfect in being. The Advocate of dust pleading for his perfect love received to be given. Stop, rest, run it over in your head a few times: " that your love for me might be in them..." Oh, how He loves us!

It was dark and the bench I sat on was long. Candles flickered on stage and acoustic music resonated in the darkness of the ceiling far above my head. Hundreds of other voices filled the space in song to the Creator and for a few moments my voice did not join in. I was captivated unlike the other hundred times I had sung this song. And the song hit the bridge and the phrase, "Oh, how He loves us", was written over and over on the screen above and suddenly I knew: He didn't have to love me. There was no reason for Him to do so as Romans 5:8 says,

"We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him."

But, the most beautiful thing is He does. love. us. And a gaping smile lifted the corners of my face and I felt loved! We are special! We are advocated for! Excitement filled me to the brim as I turned with deep humbleness filling my soul and  great enthusiasm to my friend sitting next to me and said in the midst of the song, "He. loves. us! He. loves. us!"

You are loved. You are advocated for. And you are accepted. No strings attached! Revel in it and be full!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life-Giving Monuments

Trees are monuments of intentional creation and beauty. Tilting my head back and soaking in the color, texture, and shape of such a creation through my mixed brown eyes has been a more astonishing experience lately. Existing in another part of the world can mean a change in climate where tree varieties are much different. Except for the Jasmine bush in the corner of the campus at Bangla Hope, Bangladesh was full of exotic varieties: banana, coconut, mango, papaya, mahogany, and many shade trees which were almost always covered in a layer of dust.

Coming home to the lush Pacific Northwest I am captivated by the juxtaposing in my mind between my two homes and their native greenery. Standing on a steep hillside in Washington at the foot of a wide jagged wall of rough rock I turned South and drank deep of nature.

A carpet of fingered ferns bowed in reverence to the majestic splendor of the uniformed fir trees as they stood guard on the hillside against the white-capped waters of the broad Columbia River. A beautiful spray of sunlight speckled the bowed foliage through the thick branches above.

Trees are life-giving! They are an intentional creations of service! All of creation is breathing out carbon dioxide and trees are soaking it in and giving us life in oxygen. Life-giving monuments to the
Creator who takes our bad and breathes life into the lowest of places.

 "There was no doubt which was more like Love Himself. Divine Love is Gift-love. The Father gives all He is to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too."
 (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves) 

And the tree stands strong and firm pointing up, always up reminding all of creation where beauty had its start and where Love reigns.

May I drink in nature as an act of worship to the One who gives life and may I in turn be a creation of intentional growth towards Jesus, pointing to Jesus, always up.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brown-Cheeked Wonders

Here I sit in my carpeted room, but most of the time I'm still there where tile covers everything and dust longs for water and where little brown fingers cling to my arms and wrists. I remember the feeling of my visionary wheels turning in my brain, searching every corner for a glimpse of sound choice, but there was none than the one in front of me. My standard 30-day visa application had been declined and in it's place I sat holding my passport, opening and closing it again and reading over and over their response: an exit visa. Four days to be on a plane headed anywhere but where I was sitting.

And oh I heard it! It was difficult to define between the flurry of thoughts swirling in my head, but I heard it and it was the same response I heard when I had decided to even come to where little hands grasped mine: "Go and I will teach." And all of a sudden the flurrying stopped and peace reigned and I knew definitively the journey I had to take. So, I stood with a strength and muscle I knew not of my own, but of Someone and I walked. And the hope of Heaven never looked so beautiful.

Kissing each of the 128 brown-cheeked wonders sweet dreams as I walked away from this dreamland I had lived in and hoped with all of my heart that Love was the lasting impression left and not just the tears dripped behind. This dreamland of struggle, heart ache, and raw beauty.

Lifting my head I look forward and walk and a renewed hope of Heaven lives within, a longing to be with brown-cheeked children and a Father who knows no condition of love.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Laying words down on loose pages is a re-centering action for my hands and heart. Writing gives clarity and washes away all the muddled thoughts to where I can see what really is important in this life I'm walking through, because that's the thing, we're all just walking through towards a beautiful awakening. But, I firmly believe we're already being called to wake to the love messages of our Waker everywhere!

Days go by where all I want to do is lay on my bed and read a thought-provoking book and soak in the words of an author who leads me by the hand in ways they have been awakened. By reading I'm hoping to vicariously live their awakened journeys and yet, I have my very own beautiful awakening to experience if only I would get off my bed and see it! So, I get up and press on.

A flood is springing from long blue pipes, refreshing the ground. Sitting on the edge of the courtyard I wait with knees tucked under chin for those precious brown eyes to open. Slowly, little feet step into the light of the afternoon and hands rub the darkness away from drooping eyelids. I smile as I watch those brown eyes take in the scene of this flood in their own front yard. Thirty minutes pass and I am no longer alone, but little feet swing freely as they line the perimeter of the courtyard watching. No one is yelling, but we're mesmerized by the flooding of this yard. A flood bringing life to the earth beneath. A flood awakening my soul to be still and know the gifts in these brown swinging feet around.

Water falls from the sky and it's 6:30 am and I am out of my bed fast as I run up the steps to the roof and just stand. Drops trickle down my joyous cheeks and I am awake! Five months and the earth has been dry. Today, the earth was awakened to life once again and Jesus is alive in this beautiful awakening for He gave it. I soak it into my core far past where the rain has soaked its way into my dry skin. This is a moment of awakening. Awakening is always an option when belief is held in a personal Creator, our Elohim.

"Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still...quietness and trust enhance your awareness of My Presence with you. Do not despise these simple ways of serving Me. Although you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms."

- Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

*Elohim is the Hebrew name for addressing God as personal.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Intentional Lover

"I'm dust," and thoughts swirl in my head as I listen to the oldest girls sing worship. It's Valentine's Day and sure I sprinkled some love around, but that's all it is, just a sprinkle.

A week ago I sat on the dust-sprinkled mat with village and Hope children alike and reveled in the songs sung and glanced at the bamboo tree leaves clapping in the wind mesmerized by one thought: what if I was created for this moment alone?

What if we are all created with the intention of being exactly where and who we are in this undivided moment?

So, what am I doing with my head a mess and in the clouds and every-once-in-awhile moments of actually being fully here where I was created to be? Visionary or not, my feet have got to be on the ground. And it's because I forget. I forget to acknowledge the Lover of my soul in the moment I was created for and my thanks gets put off for another unidentified time.

And even now, I sit glued to my chair and this pathetic screen looking for my answer when all I really need to do is go out there. So, I'm going. Going and counting these 128 love-hungry, dusty beings as the image of the Lover. Kissing each one goodnight and laying my head to sleep with thankfulness for an intentional Lover who created me for this moment.

Shubo bhalobasha dibosh!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


There are moments when my heart just hurts. When ten year-old's trip and fall scraping their legs when really their pride is hurt more than their fall. When I feel like all I do is talk and not enough loving. When Kakoli stood on the sidewalk by the garden and told me she was going to check on Baby Kenzie, who lies under that cross stuck in the ground, to see if Kenzie had gotten better and I gently told her "No, Kenzie will not be better. She is sleeping until Jesus comes again."

Grabbing hold of my arms and looking up at me, Kakoli replied with a look of desperation shading the corners of her eyes, "What if I give my life to her? Will she get better?"

Oh, my heart ached! But, this was the good news: "You know what? Jesus already did and that is why we will all get to be in heaven. So, no, Kakoli, you do not have to give her your life, because Jesus already did."

And it is in these moments of soul-wondering and hoping where truth comes through: Jesus is the victor every time. Every individual moment of wondering and pain and joy, He is victorious! And it has never been so profound in my life as when a child who couldn't fathom death offered her life for a baby. She is the image bearer of God! A willing sacrifice and a testament to my own dust-filled hands.

Speckles of clouds reflect orange as I write. I've been to the city, gone home in the night on that bumpy road, and know that as I play with these happy children, outside of this fence cars are burning and people are being hurt all in the name of passion and politics! And even still Jesus is victorious.

My focus is a mess most of the time. I drift off to sleep while trying to pray and my Bible is closed most days. Student missionary, student, friend, daughter, I openly confess I am a mess, but Jesus still died.

Still. That's it, right? When I am still I know He is victorious. When I am still I see the gifts of His love messages in creation. When I am still I know courage comes from the God who defines me. Just do it: be still. This where we find Him and know Him. (Psalm 46:10)

Almighty God, who is victorious in the chaos of politics, the pain of saying goodbye, and the day to day scrapes, desires with a life-sacrificing action of love for Him to be known and for us to be well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Value in Dust

The only thing I could see were her eyes as we passed each other on that busy street in Dhaka. Horns blared and rickshaw bells called out in warning to passerby's of their rushed pace and our eyes met for a few seconds. Although her eyes were the same color as the black Muslim scarf covering her face and head, they were pools of wonderment, desire, and questions she dared not voice. Venturing a smile in her direction, the woman quickly averted her eyes out of respect and culture and brushed past my shoulder as I made my way up the street.

Glancing over my shoulder at her retreating figure, I felt pain and a sense of extreme inequality pass over me. We were supposed to be the same. We are both women, about the same age, and walking the same street on top of the same substance God made us out of: dust. We are all dust. Equal. And yet, here I stand without a black scarf to cover my face: I am free. Free to drive a car, love who I choose, and exist in this world as an individual who has the power of choice. She does as well, but not without repercussions from her cultural background. She, as many do, lives in fear. Fear of rejection and disappointment. Fear had diminished the value of her existence. Her eyes told me this much.

Service is deeper and more personal than signing up for Service days and flying across oceans to live among other people. Service is giving life to the value in which that person was made with. Value which was breathed into us from the beginning.

The black-scarved woman never looked back, just down, clutching her grocery bag tightly between fingers and I too turned and walked on with eyes now filled with wonderment and awe. He who has breathed life, value, into me has given me a great gift and responsibility: to bring the light of value to the eyes of this world through the reflection of Jesus in my words, in my actions, and in my eyes. Oh, how great is a God who is gracious enough to love me and extend His love through my dust-filled skin to the eyes of this world. For it is in His eyes alone where value is fully manifested and freely given.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Craving of Creation

Sunlight cascades through the wisps of evaporating fog and kisses my face as it rests against the woven mat I lay on. I turn and another face is next to mine with eyes full of innocent-mischief that can only be found on the face of a two year-old as a grin spans her little face. Giggles of abandonment bubble out of her as she touches her nose to mine. Just as quickly as her nose touched mine, she is gone; on her tiny little feet running as fast as her body can manage while wearing my size eight flip flops.

And though it only lasted a moment it was her response to my existence that made me want to hit "pause" and grasp the beauty just a bit longer.

Eyes closed during prayer and I lean my head against the three year-old standing next to me with her hand resting on my shoulder. Ever so slowly her back slides down the wall and I feel her warm cheek rest against my head. A smile works its way through me from the deepest parts and with eyes closed still I've experienced its purest form: Response.

It plays hide and seek, beckoning me with every glimpse I catch to pursue again, to live in awareness of the Love and fulfillment experienced in moments of response. Describing it as hide and seek is only from my eyes borne of dust. It really is there all of the time like the constant eb and flow of a river winding it's way to the ocean, somewhere greater.

A smile greets me in passing as I move towards the classroom and a moment of all-consuming love overtakes me as it hits me head-on how much I love these faces around, how much He loves me. And not twelve minutes later do I resent my very dust-filled skin as I enter the classroom and tell these children the need of listening and respect for the seventeenth time this week and its only Tuesday as my crossed arms betray the confidence in the them to learn. I'm dust and I know it.

Even still it finds me again as I walk home and glance up from hands held tight in discouragement and eyes rest on the little boy sitting quietly on the bench. Scooping him up, I sit and hold him close as he chatters to me with that big broad smile smeared with dahl from lunch. He quiets and soon we are sitting in quiet contentment of each others presence. For this is the craziest, less-than-yielding child of the little boys. The one whose clothes never stay on and he is sitting here in my lap; still and happy.

Medicine for my soul. Reminder of response. Response of Jesus being in the faces around. Is that why I crave good conversation, time, and laughter? The soul craves response! The Creator's response to earth was to breathe into dust. This is why grace is etched into our souls like the scars on His wrists: He craves response too! And I am humbled.

"My face is shining upon you, beaming out Peace that transcends understanding. You are surrounded by a sea of problems, but you are face to Face with Me, your Peace."

-Sarah Young Jesus Calling

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Calling Light


Warmth soaked its way through me as I sat with my back to wall, sitting on a mat outside watching the caregivers embroider new shirts. There are many things that trigger the senses with memories such as taste, smell; but today I experienced it in light.

Sauntering with little brown hands in mine across campus with a full tummy from breakfast, I walked to the place where five ladies sat embroidering on a mat. Stopping to watch I sat down on the mat to learn from their handiwork. As my observing turned into first thirty minutes then one hour, my gaze drifted to the wall where two of the ladies sat with their backs to it, stitching. Studying the light cast on the wall as it played with the overhead branches of the shade tree, my mind was catapulted to places and seasons of home.

The angle of the sun lit up the wall and the ladies embroidering with the same color that shines during the morning in Northern California's wintertime. Memories of family vacations and Christmas' spent in the Sunshine State flooded my mind. I've come to the conclusion: it's okay to be homesick once in awhile. In fact it is necessary.

Sitting there in the sunlight, I was amazed and in awe of how the angle of such light could trigger my memory in such a profound way! Is that what happens when His light is on me? My desire for places I've never known is heightened? Made in the the image of Creator (of dust no less), designed for another place with grace etched into our soul like the scars on His wrists. Who is such a Being who makes us out of dirt with a heart beating out the rhythm of another culture?

What happens when we encounter His presence in another face, words scrawled across loose pages, or with our face to the ground? Something calls deep within us when Light falls upon us and our hearts scream with elation and desire; praise. It is good. It is okay to be homesick when it instills within us a desire for something more, Someone Greater.

"When I can no more stir my soul to move,
And life is but the ashes of a fire;
When I can but remember that my heart
Once used to live and love, long and aspire-
Oh, be thou then the first, the one thou art;
Be thou the calling, before all answering love;
And in me wake hope, fear, boundless desire."

-George MacDonald

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Arms Bent

8 month old baby Kenzie
It's three days later and tears still blur my vision every once in awhile as the day rolls on. It happened again as I walked out of the middle of the New Year's day worship with Lucy clinging to my shoulders, her eyes heavy. Reaching for a fleece blanket, I dropped down into the rocking chair of the baby room and let the dark, silky-curled 18 month old lay her head in the bend of my arm. Her big glassy eyes stared up at mine and a trace of a smile played on her lips.

Four days earlier I had held eight month old Kenzie in my arms and she had done the same: looked up at me with an unwavering stare with those big brown eyes and smiled her toothless, all gums smile. And she had fallen asleep holding her hands together just like she had since the day we brought her to Bangla Hope a month and a half ago.

Cradling Lucy, coaxing her to sleep I felt the water brimming my eyes without warning as I realized I wouldn't be able to walk over to the little brown cradle, which use to sit across the room, and pick up Kenzie to hold in my arms. The cradle is no longer there and in its place is space: bare, cold floor tiles.

Walking back to my room after putting Lucy in her bed to nap, hesitantly I passed the garden where a fresh mound of dirt sits with a simple cross protruding from the top. Three days ago a group of us had stood around that spot and had all contributed a handful of dirt to the hole in the earth. We sang songs, prayed, and said goodbye to the youngest of our children hours after breath had ceased flowing from between her tiny lips.

And I sit on the ground; low, wondering where the glory of God will take place. Will it be in the lives of the family of our Kenzie who witnessed our songs, our hope in Him as we said goodbye? Or, will it be in the filling of a now empty cradle?

Or, have I witnessed His glory already in the beautiful smallness of a baby's smile who touched my heart? Yes. I say yes for only His glory has come and has yet to come. Amen.