Spring Babies

My house is full of babies. The dear sweet, grow up super fast animal babies. I’m working at the kitchen table, watching the wind whip across the pool outside, writing notes and answering emails, and listening to the cheeping of the two chicks we brought home two weeks ago. Their down is almost completely replaced by baby feathers, but when they get excited and flap or run or hop, little puffs of down blow off… like the dandelion seeds we make our wishes on.unnamed-23unnamed-22

And aside from the wind outside, all is quiet in here. And I stand up. I’m thirsty and hunger is setting in. It is lunchtime. I glance over to the butterfly gardens where 9 chrysallises hang. They’ve been there for nearly a week now and just this morning I begin despairing. Will they break open and release the new, metamorphosised life inside? Did the metamorphosis take place or did something go wrong in that mysterious process… for all 9? But no! Behind my back, silently, these two were born.

unnamed-21Reborn, really. No longer worms, not even worms with wings, but bona fide butterflies… given a new life, a new purpose, a new form of transportation and of feeding. Completely changed.

And I’m reminded of this amazing story coming from Malawi:
“We had reason to celebrate Martin & Mathias’ first birthday recently. When their mother died shortly after giving birth, most people in their village thought one or both of the twins would follow soon after. That’s the way these situations usually play out in the rural villages of Malawi. With no one to nurse them and scant resources to provide formula during these first days and weeks, it’s usually not long before dehydration, hunger or some opportunistic disease claims one or both of their lives; but that’s not their story!2a76ee_0678066f305b4733b66f4292be6eb11b.jpg_srb_p_284_226_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

Their story includes grandparents and aunts turning to volunteers from the Passion Center Community Health Network (CHN) for help. Similar to the Passion Center, the CHN’s activities are focused around the following mission; “Joining God in Rescuing, Redeeming & Restoring the vulnerable in their communities.” As we shared this need with the larger Passion Center family, enough money was raised to provide formula, blankets, clothes and medical care for Martin & Mathias.

Today they are healthy, strong and growing. Though their mother was HIV+, they don’t show any signs of being infected nor will we test them until they are 3yrs or older. But whatever their AIDS status – positive or negative – we’re convinced God has an even more promising future than what they’ve experienced so far! We don’t know exactly what their story will be, but we thank God He’s already writing a different one than what relatives and some villagers were bracing for!2a76ee_99a108ac8a9c4b4db73fd1693e1ce035.jpg_srb_p_284_229_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

Hope is more than a concept we share, it’s the result of real, sometimes overwhelming, circumstances changing because God is involved. Those circumstances might be physical, emotional, psychological, educational, and spiritual or a combination of some or all of these. Over the past 10 years we’ve seen God’s Hope altering the lives of hundreds of children and dozens of village; Martin & Mathias are two recent examples of this Hope taking root in fertile ground.” To learn more about the Passion Center for Children in Malawi, go here.
How much of life do we spend as worms? Crawling and foraging? And how much of life do we spend in the glorious hope, soaring and sipping?

Martin and Mathias have been given wings. And we at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow are thrilled beyond words to be working with the Community Health Network at the Passion Center for Children in Malawi. These are the kinds of stories that inspire and motivate us! Won’t you join us?!

Infused Peach Iced Tea + Iced Tea Maker Giveaway! (Ends April 9th)

compassionteablog:

We are so grateful to Kelli for her support of our mission and tea! Thanks Kelli for helping us to share tea and save lives!

Originally posted on LE ZOE MUSINGS:

The urge for hot tea sipping tendencies is slowly diminishing as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer. It’s time to transition back to those iced teas again. When Compassion Tea Co. sent me their ingenious iced tea maker and some packets of black peach teas, I became an expert at making iced tea. For realzzz. The iced tea maker comes with the infuser so everything that you would need to make the perfect glass of iced tea is at your fingertips.

After steeping the black peach tea for the recommended amount of time, I removed the infuser and added a handful of ice along with some colorful slices of strawberries, nectarines, lime, and a few mint leaves. And because I like sweet iced tea, I also added sugar. The combination is robust, energizing, refreshing, and sooo delish!

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If you are a tea lover and love helping others, please check out

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Margin

Margin is a hot word in my house these days.

There’s the margin of business, of getting the most buck for your bang. It’s the fine line between squeezing the most money out of clients and the most work out of your employees – without tipping either side of the equation. And big margins are good, sought after, applauded. Margin.

Then there’s the margin of life, the blank space, the whitespace that circles the words of our chaotic lives. Margin is space to breathe, to create, to still and listen, to put down the phone, the TV remote, the computer, the calendar, the to-do list 3 feet long and just… be. Margin is time for the kids to play and be kids. Margin is time for mommy to soak in a tub or for daddy to unwind from the day and connect with someone in his family… or vice versa.

This kind of margin keeps perspective, holds the balance, allows for God to be heard, for healing and health and reconciliation and emotional stability.unnamed-23

unnamed-40But is this margin applauded? Don’t we prefer to applaud the family that can pile the schedule with sports and arts and homework and busyness? Don’t we marvel at the mom juggling all 10 balls marginally well and wonder skeptically at the efficiency of the mom who only juggles 3 very well? Or the husband who works all day, serves on boards, and coaches little league… don’t we marvel at his dedication? But we don’t ask where his margin is, do we?

Is there an assumption that the more margin we have financially, the more margin we’ll have time wise? That the striving and squeezing and pinching stops when the bottom line looks good? Or does the striving and squeezing and pinching just pick up in other areas, cluttering our lives with the trappings of affluence?

And I’m wondering this morning, as I’m flailing in the struggle of creating margin in a world that demands we keep running without margin, what margin looks like in Africa.

Like in Zomba, Malawi, where Passion Center for Children is located. Where is the margin in life when floods have destroyed your house and your crops? Is there rest, blank space, stillness when there aren’t mosquito nets and pots and pans and food and when children are sleeping in the open because there are no beds, no walls, no roof? When there is no monetary margin, no buck for the bang, when life is hand to mouth, where is the margin?10378274_812999028771587_6202102954853020024_n

10923281_812999078771582_747795061580541710_n10917445_812999052104918_3699448331697225328_nOr in Uganda where Village of Hope is located, where 9 new sponsors for children this week is celebrated! And the bottom line says that there are 200 more that need sponsors. And the bottom line reads like this: “Dear friends… this is Cindy. We really need your help. As you know the last couple of years have been hard on me physically. So I have not been able to go out and ‘friend’ raise. Because of that… we are running $20K short each month. We have added a Skill Training Center and another 50 kids to our Villages. Those things add up. So we, our 340 children, need your help. Every dollar helps!”

How do you build margin into your finances, into your life, when there are 340 kiddos who depend on you for life – food, education, healthcare, nurturing, shelter – because the alternative to this is child-run families, sleeping in the open, abuse, days without food, a tentative survival, and no upward mobility. Where is the margin?10299080_10152398008179763_3795027765915466660_n 11015953_10153109834269763_317411810080949687_n 10352939_10152674151649763_6536344923481152464_n

Or in the Valley of 1000 Hills, South Africa, where 1000 Hills Community Helpers is located, where some 5000 people this month will attend a medical clinic of some sort and will be treated effectively and well for the unimaginable cost of $1 per person. Where that same number of people or more will gather for meals, where children will meet daily for schooling and care, where mommies and daddies will learn skills and grannies will meet and sit under the canopy or gather around a table and sew. Where the safe house had to close because there wasn’t funding to keep it open. And where the bottom line says we’re running this amazing operation on nickels and dimes, we are doing great good, but we’ve got no margin and we’re not meeting our financial needs to keep all these balls in the air.1011836_10151711910730854_1547028917_n 10628167_10152865178225854_4632364125688208242_n 1800479_10152895399445854_1985007257085480745_n 10628268_10152895404295854_8499036510535850559_n

Where is the margin when it all sounds so dire?

The margin is in the whitespace. The margin is in being still and listening for God to speak, being still and knowing that He is God, being still and knowing that He is at work, that He has built up these relief centers, that He has begun a good work, and He will fulfill His promises to His people, and He will finish those good works.

And margin is in the whitespace created when we take a moment to savor a cup of tea. Whether we’re members of Compassion Tea and we amble into a pantry well-stocked with a multitude of tea flavors or whether we buy our favorite flavor every other month online or whether we shuffle into our favorite coffee shop, favorite because it carries tea with a cause, how ever we come to our cup of tea and with whomever we share it, when we create this pause in our day, we are creating margin in Africa.IMG_7536

And that’s the bottom line!

Olympics and the Temporary

compassionteablog:

Part of the operations around Claremont Camp include a Safe House. Leppan and her staff have been supporting 17 children and some moms and grannies in the house — giving them protection, food, clothing, shelter, and a chance at a new life. But this came through on Facebook today from Leppan, “A very sad week it has been had to close down our Safe House ,it has taken a few months to decide on doing this ,with many prayers and tears it was decided to say good bye to our children ,a Mom and her 2 children and Granny the welfare came in and every one has found new homes to go to .It does not take away the heartache ,I have visited them all and will continue to do so ,all seem happy with there new homes. I could not get sponsors to fund our home looking after 17 children plus is expensive ,and that’s my sad news. Next week will be better.” Life is tenuous and difficult. But we can make a difference.

Originally posted on compassiontea:

Oh Olympic fever is taking hold! The excitement is building! Opening Ceremonies are on today and I’m thinking about how to best view them and what foods to have at the ready. As I’m typing this, I have a window open to USA Today’s online Olympics coverage where a clock is ticking down the time until the Opening Ceremonies. It’s not long now!

Next to the clock is an article about Michael Phelps in relation to his housing in the Olympic Village.  (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/swimming/story/2012-07-25/michael-phelps-ryan-lochte-share-suite-in-village/56485516/1) The Olympic Village is of course the temporary housing for all of the athletes and is meant to be cozy, a good place to relax, and designed to encourage friendly camaraderie with athletes from around the world. According to the article, Phelps has a single room in a four-bedroom suite he shares with six other swimmers including his rival Ryan Lochte. Apparently, the village has…

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Rain, Rain…

We’re still doing rain dances here. Every time the weatherman forecasts another storm coming through, there is a collective intake of breath… a community wide inhalation like, “Oh! Maybe this will be the one to get us out of drought!” And then the weatherman inevitably says, “This is not going to be enough to get us out of the drought.” He’s such a Debbie Downer! So, we keep praying for rain. And when the rain comes, we don’t grumble. The inconveniences of rain boots and umbrellas and flooding roads and massive puddles… they are all born with a determination, a stalwart fortitude to bear through this “necessary evil.” The hills are green at last. The stream beds are flowing again. Local ponds are full and wildlife is finding water. We’re not out of the drought, but with each rain we are sighing relief.

 

And on the other side of the world, the rain won’t stop.

 

Toward the end of 2014, CompassioNow took on the support of another medical mission outreach program, that of Passion Center for Children’s Community Health Network in Malawi. And this rainy season in Malawi has not been good. Heavy flooding from the incessant downpours has caused countless homes to collapse, displacing thousands of persons and families. According to Eric Sythoff, director of the Passion Center, “In Zomba alone approximately 24,000 households have been displaced and are now living in schools, churches and health centers.”

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Sythoff explains further, “Right now we have children sleeping in the open because their homes are severely damaged. At least four houses (that we know of right now) from our Passion Center extended family have been destroyed and many houses need plastic sheeting and more grass for roofs to prevent further damage from rain, as well as doors and windows to keep the rain out. Also, treated drinking water is a major need as the government is concerned with a cholera outbreak due to poor sanitation and water source contamination. There are still households we can’t get to because roads and paths are blocked, which leaves people in our area who need clean cooking/eating utensils.”

 

On Feb. 3, the Passion Center staff joined with other relief agencies to provide supplies for displaced families. The PC staff went to the Namachete Primary school along with the Zomba District Disaster Committee to provide emergency relief care packages. “This school is in a remote area, hosting many people who have been displaced. We are working on identifying and helping those in our area. We have a number of pastors from our Passion Center Pastoral Ministry living here as well as one of our Community Health Network groups serving here.”

 

“The care packages were filled with: 5 kg bag of beans, 20 kg bag of Maize flour, 1 liter of cooking oil, 2 kg of salt and 1 roll of plastic sheeting for damaged homes. While they were going from each designated camps that housed those that have been displaced, they noticed more houses have collapsed due to another heavy thunderstorm. The disaster committee identified the following challenges: 1. lack of bedding, 2. lack of mosquito nets (classrooms don’t have any windows to keep mosquitoes out), and 3. lack of cooking utensils and storage buckets for water.” Sythoff further reports, “During the distribution, our staff prayed with individuals and shared the Gospel message in which 17 individuals gave their lives to Christ. As our team was returning to the Passion Center, another heavy thunderstorm hit and more houses gave way to the downpour.  We haven’t received reports of cholera outbreaks yet and we won’t know the extent of crop damage until the rains subside, but people are already preparing for these problems.”

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Immediate needs are as follows:

“The District Disaster Committee have identified the following challenges and need urgent supplies based on the living conditions of the displaced people:

1.  Lack of bedding (blankets and foam mattresses)

  1.  Lack of mosquito nets – this increases the risk for malaria because the classrooms do not have windows to keep mosquitoes out; the presence of more standing water attracts mosquitoes which carry the disease, increasing the likelihood for deaths from malaria for the young, sick, and elderly people.
  2.  Lack of cooking utensils and water storage buckets – many lost everything in the floods.
  3.  A critical need is fortified porridge for children under 8 years old.”

 

Please visit the Passion Center for Children website to make a direct donation, or visit the CompassioNow website to donate to medical relief for the children and families around Zomba.

A Crossing

We lost a tree to the drought — a big granddaddy of a pine. Who knows how long it stood watching as the world changed around it. But I’m watching men carry rounds of it out of my yard and into the chipper and I can’t help but feel sad.

Because.

What popped the seed from the cone, what heat? What soil was there and what rain? Did hands plant the seedling in that spot or did divine hands, like a magician weaving magic, cause the whirl and the settle and the dust and the rain and the firming and rounding and bursting that brought forth the shoot that felt around down and down for its roots and then pushed up and up to find the heat and the sun? What is the story behind this tree that stood guard over the yard, flanked the bench where I like to sit on a summer’s day?

The chain saw stops and I watch men carry stumps. These aren’t going in the chipper. They are too big. What does one do with the sawed up chunks of a large pine tree? There’s a part of me saying, “Save a piece, a momento” but why? I lived near it for 5 years and 5 years in the face of decades is nada. But should there be a memorial, a marker to say here lies the decaying roots of a good tree?

It takes 3 men to pull the trunk to the ground. It takes 2 men to pull a limb that has fallen in the neighbor’s tree.

It took 3 people to fill my son’s cavity this morning. A dentist and a hygienist and a mom holding hands and the TV playing in the background because distraction is a good thing when facing our scary things.

It feels like a passage this morning, another aging step. Little boy getting sealants on his molars, his permanent teeth, because they need to last a lifetime. And a lifetime of reaching branches to the sky is coming down. There should be a marking.

Because I watched tears in my brave boy’s eyes this morning as the first branches of the browning tree were sawed off. And I’m reminded of holding him, sobbing myself, shortly after he was born while the doctor performed a procedure and little boy exercised lungs that a few weeks earlier weren’t strong enough to support his life. It was an agony of waiting for those lungs to develop.

Tears in my boy’s eyes… they never get easier to see. And the mama’s heart says yes, this is good for you but I know it hurts now. And I want to cry out against the hurt, take it on myself. So I hold tighter to the little hand that daily fills my own more and more. It is the last little hand I have to hold? 7 years have passed since that moment and yet where did the time go? Oh the growing since then.

And when the next tree goes, where will we be?

There’s a hole in the skyline now. Perhaps the moon will shine more fully through now. Perhaps the birds will miss it, its branches. And its absence means a break in the sky highway of the squirrels as they jump and play from one tree to the next.1656006_10203514248114950_9002450591513174413_n

So, I’m writing it down because I don’t know when the next tree will die, when the next marking is coming. When the next grown up step is taken and when the next stop in growth will come.

It’s a holy crossing this morning, milestones, growing up and dying. It demands a reverence. Amen. And Amen.1800355_10203006224694682_61845596_n

Make Me a Bird

tumblr_mt5b1cmH0q1rbv0tfo1_500“Dear God, Make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.” It’s my favorite part of the movie Forrest Gump. A young Jenny is hiding in a cornfield and she draws Forrest down onto his knees next to her and these are the words that frame the movie, these words and that feather floating in the bluest of skies. It resonates with me… the hiding in a cornfield. Been there, done that. Indiana has lots of cornfields and the one next to the house is just as good as any for getting lost in, for hiding in, for dreaming in. Because sometimes you just need to get away. And kneel. And dream that the tassels whispering in the wind are the soul-quenching love notes of a God who knows you and feels along with you the pain in your heart.

 

My kids have an unquenchable desire to fly. Little Miss is outgrowing her desire somewhat as age and experience jade her sense of limitless possibilities. But she spent a year or more in fairy wings and ballet tutus ever sure that one of these days those wings would find the magic necessary to lift her off the ground. And Camo Kid, well, he’s still in dragon wings and may never outgrow his desire. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up he says, “A fighter pilot.” Daily, he concocts plans for jet packs and flying ships and personal wings. And when Little Miss steps in with her “reality check,” I shush because really, who wants to live in a world where flight isn’t possible.

 

Maybe these kids inherited it from me. When they ask to add to our menagerie a pet bird, I am offended. Clip the wings? Cage the bird? Stop the flight? How inhumane. How anti-nature. Let the birds soar. Let the birds be free.

 

Hiking this morning, I was startled as I came around a bend in the path by a flock of pigeons rising out of an oak tree. The rising sun painted their breasts a peachy-pink and the blue morning sky accentuated their soaring outlines. I startled them. They startled me. And in that moment of watching their freedom, I uttered a prayer like Jenny’s. Dear God, make me fear-free like the birds. Help me to soar on wings like they do, above the fray, in the blue, with the rising sun touching wing-tip.unnamed-29 unnamed-27 unnamed-26 unnamed-31 unnamed-33 unnamed-30

 

And Jesus’ words in Matthew flashed across my mind: Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

 

On the dawn of this new year, I look forward knowing that a year from now I won’t be the same person, living the same life. Things are going to happen. People, places, circumstances are going to change. And that knowledge brings with it fears. I don’t like the unknown anymore than the next guy… maybe even less.

 

And I touch my cross, the one that hangs from my neck, the one with these words: But those who wait on the Lord
 Shall renew their strength;
 They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
 They shall run and not be weary, 
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

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These life words. These words of prayer… Lord, make it so. Because I’m the man in Mark 9:24 crying out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I want to believe that I am of more value than the birds in God’s economy. I want to believe that my running will be swift and stron, and that despite the pounding in my heart and brain, I will not faint.

 

I don’t need to fly far, far away. But I do need to fall on my knees and pray. Over and over again. Because in the praying that it be so, I will find my wings. Lord, let it be so. Help my unbelief.

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Drawing Circles

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. And God commanded, “Write this down… this word.” And Daniel wrote. And Moses wrote. And Isaiah and Ezekiel and Malachi and Jeremiah. They wrote it down so that when all went silent and 400 years of silence crept by, people still had the Word. And Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and later Paul and John again heard the instruction, “Write it down… this word.” And they wrote it down so that after 2000 years people still have the Word and it is still marvelous and wonderful and awesome, not in the 21st century slang kind of way but in the magnitude and splendor of God kind of way.

So today I have to write it down too. This Word.

You see, some 4 months ago, God called me out of my day and said, “Go for a hike. I have something to show you.” So, I hiked. My dog and I climbed in the scorching sun, in a landscape parched and dead. We passed ponds that raised dust; no trace of mud or moisture left. The sun and dust combined in a glaring golden haze. My mouth felt sticky and dry and the dog kept encouraging me to turn back. It’s too hot and too dry he seemed to be saying. Go home. At least there is shade there.

We circled a pond, the barren remains of a pond.unnamed-11

 

Circled its lifeless perimeter because I was reading a book by Mark Batterson about outrageous prayer. And I was circling this pond in prayer because to me it represented the valley, the whole lot of us parched and thirsty. The dog circled too. Nothing should have stopped him from crossing the pond bed. No mud, no water, no nothing. But he circled like it was holy ground. And I prayed to God to bring the rain, to fill the pond, to restore His people, to heal the land and its people.

I will, He said. The next time you come up here, this will be full.

Faithless that I am I thought it would take a while for that to happen.

When I circled that pond I was also circling Compassion Tea in prayer. We were all reading Draw the Circle. It wasn’t a particularly difficult, parched time for Compassion Tea; we were just wondering what God had in store for His company. Where were the blessings we had been seeing for months previously? Were we headed into a drought ourselves? Wendy had said, “Let’s circle this in prayer.” So we prayed the prayer of Jabez; “Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldst bless me and enlarge my border, and that thy hand might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from harm so that it might not hurt me!” And God granted what he asked.” (1 Chronicles 4:10) Only our prayer was “Oh bless Compassion Tea and expand our borders, Lord. And be with us, keep us from harm. And God granted our request.”

And God granted our request.

Today, the inability to breath was strong again, as it has been for the past two weeks. And as I fought my way home on familiar roads that nevertheless were raising the hair on the back of my neck, and as I cried out to God again, He called me out of my day and said, “Go hike. I have something to show you.”

The hike up was excruciating, not because of the altitude climb or anything treacherous about the path but because God and I had a little talk about my inability to breath and why it was so bad right now. We had a little chat about hard hearts and how sometimes He allows hard hearts like He did Pharoah’s because His glory becomes even more brilliantly and emphatically displayed. We talked about surrender and about my Jonah heart… not those people God, not those.

Sometimes it is good to walk in the rain. No one can tell if those are tears or raindrops.

I didn’t see much on the climb up because my eye was inward, listening to the pain of my parts pouring out in front of their Maker. And the laying of them down at His feet, those pains, fears, worries, the things that have slowly been suffocating me.

And then, there was this.

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Like searing light, like electrical shock, an invisible hand writing on a wall, He said, “I am the Lord God. I am faithful. I am faithful to fulfill my promises. I will heal my people of their iniquities. I will heal my people.”

The tears came hot and blinding in streams filling the ponds of my soul.

Because here it was, proof that He is faithful and He did fill the pond.

Because here it was, proof that He is faithful and He has expanded our borders.

Compassion Tea now stretches from sea to shining sea, West Coast to East Coast, Gulf Coast to the northern border. St. James Coffee in Rochester, Minnesota, yesterday joined our cause and the four points on the compass are represented. And when you draw a line to connect those dots, you get a circle.

A pond is a circle. A pond is a round bowl full of water. Like a cup of tea, a place to ponder; like a baptismal font, a place to be made clean, sanctified, restored.

You should see the dog. His paws are muddy. He couldn’t help himself. He had to go in the water. Instead of begging to go home, this time he raced farther and harder. And the holy ground… he bounded through it. This is life, this water, this pond, this circle.

And this Word. His Word. “I am faithful.”

I write it down lest I forget. I write it down so that when things are silent and I can’t breath I will know.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas (and why you should too)

The trees gave up their leaves early this year. It was dry and brown has been the landscape color for months now. So, when the scorching heat passed finally sometime in October, the trees seemed to breath a collective sigh of relief and shed their skin. They’d born the weight, the burden of carrying those leaves long enough. The maple and the birch, the pear and plum, the sycamore and the aspen all gave up. Just like that.

But not the oak. Its thick waxy leaf still clings to the branch. And it is being rewarded. unnamed-10

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Yesterday we had rain, the kind we haven’t seen for four years, the kind that rekindles streams, that makes puddles in minutes, that completely washes off the surfaces of the earth. The kind that brings green.

And it’s not done yet. It’s misting today and the moss is back, the mushrooms are pushing out of the mud, the mist is rolling over the hills. It’s a perfect day.unnamed-6

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Taking a walk in the mist today, I remembered back to my 21st birthday when I headed out onto the moors of Yorkshire with little more than a camera, a stout pair of Wellies, and the best wax jacket a college student could buy. I had no mobile phone with GPS to guide, nothing to connect me to the outside world. Just me and a whole hillside of sheep. I felt again today a wonder at the misty clouds breaking over the treetops and at this green in front of me.
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This is a green with nuances of yellow and blue, a green that shouts, “LIFE!” It doesn’t scream it like I almost wrote. No, it shouts it. Not an angry scream but a joyful shout. “I’m alive and I’m growing and this is good,” I can hear the trees calling to each other under the gentle patter of raindrops. Roots long dry, gasping for the last faint hints of water in the soil are trembling today in glee.

I think this year, I’m dreaming of a green Christmas.

And I wonder if I’ve gotten it wrong all these years.

I do understand the romantic appeal of a white Christmas. There is something so delightful about the idea of a silent white snow blanketing the earth, like God is tucking us all up under a white fleecy throw where we are secure, warm, sleepy.

Funny thing is though that God didn’t come to tuck us into a big cozy earth bed.

There’s another side to the white blanketing snow. In Northeastern Ohio, where the sky and the snow make one long horizon-less expanse of a nebulous shade of grey, one feels it and might even call it despair. It’s a trudging dullness, a sleeping of the senses where sound is muted, touch is frigid, and sight is washed out.

Snow, like sand, is barren.

And into a barren landscape, God came to bring green… life. He birthed himself into baby form. Drawing breath, belting out a first scream into the night, He trumpeted His arrival with angels singing in the skies, shepherds running and calling through the streets at midnight, and a star much too bright to sleep through.

Jesus’ life was not one of security and warmth and sleep nor did he call out his disciples to such a life. His family had to flee to Egypt, children were murdered in his place, refugee that he was, vagrant itinerant doctor that he became. He didn’t come to heal the well, but to minister to the poor of heart, spirit, morals. He promised a water that would quench all thirst, a living water. He lifted up the impoverished and the uneducated and he called out the religious and the educated for their hypocrisy.

I’m looking at this brash green all around me and thinking, “This is Christmas!” Life, in your face living, green washed clean exposing the chlorophyll in brave ways, a carnival of green aliveness.

This is life in Christ.

Jesus wasn’t quiet and peaceful and blanketing and warmth and security. He was raucous green, speaking in puzzles, exposing fraudulent ideas about His Father God. And His epic day on the cross sprang forth an evergreen of salvation for those who believe in him.

He didn’t tuck us into a quiet bed to sleep until the angels sing us off to heaven. He empowered us to go into all the world making disciples of all people; he coaches us to let our light shine before others… like a green mossy festival of life.

So. Yah. You may want a white Christmas. But me? I want it green!

It’s On My Heart

There’s a weight, a pressure that has been sitting there in my chest for a week now. And when she honked her horn at me this morning, I thought my heavyweight heart was going to jump right out of my chest cavity.

There are times to honk and times to keep quiet.

I couldn’t/wouldn’t turn right and run down the man crossing the street but apparently that was what she expected me to do. “What’s the rush,” I wondered, “that your getting somewhere is more important than the life of the man crossing the street?”

What is the ever-living rush?

And then, as if to make an exclamation point to her honking, she pulled into the next lane, the going straight lane, maneuvered around my car, and proceeded to turn right in front of me, grazing the last steps of the crossing man. And then, traffic ahead of her stopped. She, in her impatience, saved herself nothing.

Between trying to put my heart back in its chest and marveling at her maneuver I had less than a split second to decide. How am I going to react in front of my children? Because this could potentially be big.

And hadn’t I prayed just this morning that when I come face-to-face with the ugly and the impatient and the rude and the chaotic and the pain of this world that I would respond with something other, something that might look like a ray of light in a dark place, something like a hand-up or the face of God or an unidentifiable calm?

What was the knee-jerk going to look like?

Surely, this could be a time of righteous indignation; any anger I felt could be justified. A man’s life was a stake for goodness sake.

But we also reap what we sow and what did I want to sow in my heart, in the hearts of my children, in the fertile fields of life? So, I laughed. Out loud. And I prayed a blessing over her. Out loud. And while my heart still hurt and while inwardly I felt another little darkening, I waved good-bye and wished her a Merry Christmas and we went a separate direction.

“Why did you wave good-bye Mommy?” came the question from the backseat. “Because that is a very grumpy person and I think she needs a little love. “

“When I’m grumpy I would rather everyone around me be grumpy too,” Little Miss chimed in. “I want them to be grumpy and angry and fight me.”

Oh my heart. Yes. I know. I’ve seen that all my life. Grumpy. Angry. Fight. But what does it solve? We’re all just in the mud pit together. Where no one can gain traction. There is no upper hand although the sharp-barbed arrow of the tongue, the poisoned thought… it feels good to launch… for 1.001 of a second. Just the time it takes for a heart to beat.

I hear Little Miss pouring out her heart and I know. But maybe I can change her course from here. “If we respond with grumpiness to other grumpy people, we never get out of the grumps. But if we respond with love, maybe we can pull the grumpy person out of the grumps. Love stops the cycle of hurt.”

It’s not easy and it comes with a cost. Me, myself, and I, we wanted to rain down chastisement. Indignation was ours to grab. But.

But there was a little baby boy who was born into the dark places. He sought out the dark places and tore the curtains that kept out the light. He tore the curtains of disease and demons and despair and even death. In one powerful gut-wrenching act of obedience, he tore the temple curtain that separated the holy of holies from mankind. Because Love stops the cycle of hurt.

Yes, my heart still hurts. There are arrows from the past that I’ve tried to pull out, but they fester right now. Like arthritis in a joint that developed from an early injury, I feel their pain still. Aching and heavy. And there are fresh pains for friends and family who are going through it right now. Going through the dark, the valley of the shadow of death. And what do we do with our hard, aching hearts?

He stepped into the world. He said, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt 11:30) And He asks us to hand it over. Whatever the it is.

Ann Voskamp is talking this morning about how He traded His heart for ours, how up there on the cross He took our hard, aching hearts and traded them in for His. Heart transplants.

And when we feel it is His heart beating in us, when Love is the beat of our heart, ahhhh. The sigh of relief. Like the sigh of a snowflake falling. Like the milk-drunk coo of an infant. Like peace. The kind that passes all understanding. The kind that waves and wishes a Merry Christmas.

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