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.