Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Just yesterday I was driving to an event. My heart started racing. As I become more aware of how this kind of thing gets going in my body and may or may not send me into a full on panic attack, I stop to ask myself why. Why, little heart, is the approach of this event, sending you into spasms. The answer? Because I’d rather be at home writing.

“The Introverted are the people who live in the constant tension between the desire to communicate… and the desire to hide.”
This from Ann Voskamp, another “I’d rather stay home and write” kinda gal. So she wrote it out, her story, and it has launched her into comfort zones far beyond staying home. She says, “…well, when you’ve been revived from the dead, you keep mustering the courage up to communicate this story because maybe it will help just even one other person?”

And today Maya Angelou died and I’m thinking about how her voice was my first experience with poetry that licked my heart as it sang to my brain, how her words opened new doors and suggested to me that form in poetry could be more organic, subtle, sensuous, slithering up the backside. Her voice, husky, grandmotherly, wise, pooled around my high school self and flung wide doors of language.

And I think back to three days ago when I was watching my daughter perform with her choir during a church service and how words, lifting in song, touched people. The choir cast the words of The Battle Hymn of the Republic into air, and I watched as the grey haired ladies in their own special pew popped above the surface to nip at them. Joy spread across their faces and their lips moved uncontrollably, lipping the words, eyes bright. I had glimpses of young girls in those wizened faces. Young, smooth skin under the wrinkles, tossing curls under the white and grey. Age remembering youthful prayer meetings and days spent with beaus and a patriotism that is no longer politically correct. And I thought, “Oh how God loves you, ladies.” More than me, they have seen Him marching on.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

It was here, at this verse, that my own tears started, flowing fast, joy … joy that my daughter was in a choir that was teaching and challenging and training her voice and that that voice was singing one of my favorite hymns… a hymn for crying out loud. On the cusp of Memorial Day, it had meaning.
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free…
There are men and women who stood up, left their comfort zones, their homes, their cozy and with racing hearts faced the enemy, the freedom takers. Their voices, their stories were shortened, heroic, often unsung, unheard. But their acts made differences, changed tides of battles, changed lives. Their passing may have seemed a blip on the map of strategy, but in God’s great economy, not a drop of blood was wasted.

These words of march and fight and triumph are reserved for Memorial Day, for funerals, for times of passing. But we need them every day. Because every day is a battle. We need to know that there is purpose, a strategy, a plan in place, a plan for victory, and an exit plan, even before we move from our beds in the morning. God’s plan, God’s march, God’s victory.

Plan enacted, sweet son sent. Holy oneness broken for a bit so that holy becomes human. Holy takes on skin but not the depravity of human. Holy walks soil, holy sleeps and eats and touches and feeds and speaks words of love and healing and dangerous words that turn thousands of years of “God says” into “but now.” Holy from the beginning, there in the beginning, there in the early sacrifices that will herald and explain and ready hearts.

Yes, oh sinner. God spent those years teaching his children that certain actions are sin, the most offensive of which is turning away from God.

There must be retribution.

Retribution taken by himself on himself for me so that the swift sword loosed is not for me deserving though I be. Oh be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet!

It makes me want to stand at attention, eager along the parade route, listening for the trumpet that shall never sound retreat, butterflies in my stomach anticipating the display that is about to pass. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Drips from lips like so much honey.

Can I stand at the parade route and stay home and write too? Can they be one and the same? Can my voice raised in writing be loud and cheering? Can yours?

So, I’m writing and I’m crying, my soul purging. And my daughter comes in and says, “Why? Why are you crying?” Crying and writing, writing and crying? Isn’t that normal? Because it is in the writing that I feel the hand of God, like He is pouring His voice into me, filling me. In the preaching gospel to myself, I touch God, spend an hour at His feet, rest in the beauty of the lilies, glory in His glory. Voice my own hallelujah. Cast it out into air. It’s the introvert way, the God way for me. For now.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

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Our Most Precious Resource

Our Most Precious Resource.

Our Most Precious Resource

In the court of public opinion, there are no winners.

Am I the only one who thinks like this?

I’ve crafted a life that very carefully kowtows to the various cults out there… the environmental cults of save the trees and save the animals from plastics, and the food cults that say processed is bad and fresh is best, and the cult of cleanliness is next to godliness, and the cult of send your kids to school with colorful, nutritious lunches packed in neat little boxes, send them neat and tidy and well-showered and (goodness knows I try) well-groomed (although my tween is really challenging my style and sense of well-groomed). I have bowed at their altars, taken photos of my triumphs and shared them on Facebook, proud of my stellar accomplishments, expecting another star for my motherhood crown.

And now, in a barrage of letters, newspaper articles, and yard signs, I’m suddenly told that my efforts are not good enough because we’re in a drought and everyone needs to reduce water usage by 25%. Suddenly, water, and not trees, or the atmosphere, or the polar ice caps, is our most precious resource. And I’m scathing that poor planning, lack of responsible management, and politics have led us to this point (I can’t honestly say that I know these things to be factual, but it is ALWAYS easier to point the finger at someone else!).

So, in my mind, I’m playing David Letterman and creating the top 10 list of how to conserve water, and I’m laughing like a maniac at how it all flies in the face of the other altars of humanity at which I’ve been bowing. Like this:
10. Do laundry less. Because stained and smelly with food hanging off the sleeve is the new black.
9. Buy more clothes so you can do laundry less. But some poor person in a third world country is sitting in a sweatshop under horrific conditions for you to buy those new clothes at a “reasonable price.”
8. Flush less. Ewwww. At what point does that become unsanitary?
7. Use less soap and water for cleaning and more harsh chemicals.
6. Eat more processed foods…. We save water in these ways: watering the garden, rinsing the fresh foods, preparing the foods, washing the prepping pans, cutting boards, knives, spoons, etc. After all, no water is used when you take your meal straight from the freezer to the microwave.
5. Paper plates, plastic silverware, Styrofoam cups! Can’t you just hear the tree-huggers screaming! But if I’m not running the dishwasher, then I’m saving water.
4. Plastic baggies for packing school lunches. Suddenly, my life is getting easier! And the plastic industry is happy!
3. Become bigger consumers… eat out more, travel more, be away from the house MORE… it’s someone else’s water bill.
2. Bathe less and when you do, do it Navy style, and line the shower with buckets to capture every last drop of this precious resource. People, I have a tween … I can attest here and now that this is a public safety issue.
1. Live like this is a third world country.

Okay, I might be a bit cynical about this whole thing.

And the conscious kicks it into high gear.

Because back in 2011, when I first started working with Compassion Tea Company, I became aware of a medical clinic in Zambia called Chalabesa Mission Hospital. This medical clinic was run by a nun who worked tirelessly to bring medical care to the people of the bush. Her clinic was the only one for miles around. People walked all day to reach it. They waited all day to be seen. The nun might treat over 200 people in one day. And the clinic operated on solar panels that worked sporadically and it’s water pipes had broken. At that time, the nun and her meager staff walked 169 yards to a dirty river where elephants bathe in order to bucket brigade water back to the clinic. (read more)

Waddington by the Mission Medic Air plane and team members.

Waddington by the Mission Medic Air plane and team members.

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Carrying water on their heads

Carrying water on their heads

A boy struggles with his water load.

A boy struggles with his water load.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Three years have passed.

And while the nun is a different person, the bucket brigade continues. The medical care is often provided by flashlight. And 100s of people still walk miles and wait hours for the care.

CompassioNow has worked with Mission Medic Air, Zambia to remedy this situation, but things move slowly in Zambia. We’re waiting breathlessly to hear that the pipes have been fixed, that a new well has been dug, that running water is back at the clinic. It could happen soon! We’re praying it happens soon.

Water is a precious resource, and Zambia is a third world country, and they’ve learned to be creative and resourceful to meet the needs of the people there.

And I’m writing cynical letters to the editors in my head, throwing snarky comments around in my head when I see the neighbor’s teenage son hosing off his beater car, and generally in a bad frame of mind over this new inconvenience.

And there’s Jesus at the well, talking to the woman who has come to fill her bucket for the day. He’s telling her that he can offer her living water.

John 4: 10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus doesn’t tell her that she’ll never have to come to the well again. She’ll need to go to the well again. Life demands water. But the burden of it will be lifted. She hears his words thinking this is the fountain of youth he is offering, a spring of water that offers perpetual youth and strength, eternal life even. In the sense of life on earth forever, not in the heavenly sense. And she’s ready to sign her name on the dotted line, to enter contract on this amazing fountain of joy.

Give me this water! My heart echoes her’s. Give me this water that I will never be thirsty again. Thirst is a wild craving. It gums up the throat, it clouds the brain, it pastes the tongue in place. Thirst is a cynicism, body turning into desert.

Give me this water! This water that quenches the cynicism, the dried up thoughts and pasty mouth, that says, “You have eternal life through Jesus; so what’s the fuss?”

“A fresh bubbling spring within them.” A spring fed by the Holy Spirit, joy unspeakable, life eternal.

This is the most precious resource.

Going Under

They’re talking about spending the afternoon in the pool like it’s gonna be the best thing ever and I’m thinking about going under. The heat is settling in and the lines of traffic are suffocating. Better to focus on how I really could use a cute pair of red shoes. Because that is so much easier to face than the chicken feed spilled across the carpet, the chicks escaping from their box, the girls in Nigeria stolen from their school and held as living ransom. Moms at school are dragging, shuffling toward summer, throwing their hands up in despair at projects and events, dreaming of summer. And the realists are saying that summer won’t solve the problem. It will simply reshuffle the issues. It’ll be bliss for 10 minutes and then the kids will start fighting and we’ll all be praying for school to start again. I’ve got piles of laundry, a dishwasher that needs emptied and refilled, and a drought. Somehow I’m to cut 25% of our water use while tending my farm, my pool, the gardens and the children. Perhaps we just bath in the pool going forward. And I’m thinking I’m going under. It’s a hot, red mess out there. And going under sounds about right. But God. He shows up. There’s a surprise donation from old friends for CompassioNow. There’s a letter to Cindy Cunningham that speaks to the hearts of all the children of Uganda who have been rescued, the heart echoed in the letters from my own sponsored child. She’s come from a hot, red mess that I can’t even begin to fathom, that makes my hot, red mess look like a cake walk. She’s 11 and she lost her parents 9 years ago. How and why are up to the imagination. How and where she’s been living since… again, up to the imagination. And she’s thanking God for us, for the part we are playing in giving her a safe home, consistent food and medical care, love and Jesus. It’s so little on our part. So little. And it’s making such a difference. But God. He shows up. And I’m on my knees praying for the friends with cancer, the job interview, the waiting friend, the hurting friend, and He washes me with a stillness. And He says, “I’m God. I’ve got this.” From the beginning, He’s got this. Until the end, He’s got this. In the fiery furnace, He’s got this. In the cold, waiting night, He’s got this. He’s there in the cry of the newborn and in the sigh of relief, in the anguish of disease and the peace of a fulfilled promise, the long, endless hours and the short blink that really is life. He’s got this. I preach this to myself. Because I need it. Like a parched desert wanderer, I chug this truth, this reality instead of mirage. Guzzle, inhale, take it in as fast as possible. I’d rather drown in this truth than in the craze of the world that forces me under.

Be still and know that I am GOD. Psalm 46:10

The Blog in which I Take on Teacher Appreciation Week

October 1st was National Custodial Worker Day. March 30th was National Doctors Day. April 8th was Be Kind to Lawyers Day. May 4th was International Firefighter’s Day. May 19th is National Accountants Day. Did you celebrate these days? What did you do? Maybe you decorated your doctor’s office door, brought a latte to your favorite lawyer, or had everyone in the office contribute a flower for a bouquet for the audit team? Maybe you brought in a bucket of candy for the firefighters and had the kiddos make a craft you found on Pinterest for the custodian in the building. And this week is National Nurse Appreciation Week. What did you do for your favorite nurse? Throw up a shout out on Facebook or throw up on her?

 

But it’s also National Teacher Appreciation Week. We’re doing all these things… except for maybe the throw up although I won’t say it isn’t possible. And we’re doing them with gusto.10178064_10202966784624987_4222024786503195568_n

 

And I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. Before you label me a teacher hater, I must say that 1) I’ve been in the classroom… taught high school English and 2) my own kids have had teachers who have done amazing work with them, bringing them along in their skills and in their development.

 

What I mean is that I think appreciation of teachers has derailed. The week has become more about how we can outdo each other, how we can make our kids look good, how we can make ourselves look good, by buying and creating more, more, more. Is that what appreciation is really about? Is it really about handing your teacher a bag of candy so that by the end of the morning parade she’s looking at a Halloween haul of candy and dreading it’s siren song to her from the bottom drawer of her desk all day? Is it really about who can bring in the biggest bouquet of flowers so that the classroom looks more like a funeral parlor than an institution of learning? Is it about who has the cutest Pinterest perfect door covering? Is it really about the pats on the back we give ourselves for that cute idea, that amazing follow-through, the perfect execution of a week of snacks and coffees and lunches and breakfasts for our teachers all in the name of … appreciating teachers or our own vanity?

 

In fact, what does appreciation really look like? Do we know?

 

What makes you feel appreciated?

 

Appreciation is closely akin to love and we all feel it in different ways. Some feel loved or appreciated when another spends money on them. Some feel loved/appreciated when another takes time to do something with them. Some feel loved/appreciated by kind words and actions and physical touch. The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch, according to the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

 

So, I’m wondering if we’re really meeting the needs of our teachers by bringing them food and coffee and candy and flowers? Some, yes, but all of them? Words of affirmation in a sweet, spontaneously made card might have more meaning, or volunteering to run a center or an activity or to take home a project and help complete it, cut it out, grade it might have more meaning for another. Taking a teacher out for coffee or inviting a teacher to a special, off-site event just for her might be more meaningful for another. All of these things are more about the teacher and less about us… the parents and the kids.

 

Appreciation shouldn’t be relegated to just one week or day either. It is an organic emotion that springs up when someone does something helpful. Last night, Clara offered to put away my ice pack when I was finished icing my sore muscles. Boy, did I appreciate that! I didn’t wait until Kid Appreciation Day to share my feelings with her. I did it right there, in the moment. Last fall, Joseph was so excited about the fun things he was doing in his kindergarten classroom that he wanted to take flowers to his teacher. He picked them, arranged them, and carried them to her after school … that very day. It meant more to him and probably to her at the time than his paper flower (because of allergies his school is not allowed to have flowers in the classroom) will be in the midst of all the other children’s flowers on Friday.1238389_10201900784339364_455004882_n

 

No, appreciation should be a habit… just like joy and gratitude. Appreciation for me runs deep. Somewhere in the world, there is a woman to whom I am deeply indebted. She is my birthmother. And instead of aborting me, she gave me life. Recognizing it wouldn’t be an easy road for her or for me, she gave me up for adoption. And then the indebtedness is to the parents who adopted me, raised me, gave me everything they could give, and taught me about the greatest gift… the gift of salvation through Jesus.

 

And there it is… the biggest appreciation of all… for a gift I don’t feel worthy to have received. But it was given and it would be given again if necessary. Because of this gift, I am free from the fear of death, I am a beloved daughter of the Most High God, and I can live freely knowing that He will provide what I need most, when I need it most, and in ways that are better and more perfect than I can ever imagine. Appreciation may, in fact, not be a strong enough word! If I live my life without gratitude and appreciation for this gift, then I am living as an entitled, greedy brat. Yuck.

 

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sing some praises, offer some appreciation to my God. And then maybe I’ll see if there is a Tea Purveyor Appreciation Day coming soon.

 

 

 

 

Take Shelter

IMG_20140429_142441_777 IMG_20140430_184934_945Because I’m here again, mothering chicks… this time the dog is 70 lbs. and these babes aren’t just visiting. They are here to stay. Cheetah, Zebra, and Olaf… lively little balls of fluff with a a door and a screen sheltering them from the jaws of the dog. Truly, I don’t believe Winston would harm them intentionally, but their lives are so fragile right now. Oblivious, they try to fly away, to hop places they shouldn’t, to scamper off somewhere other. Oh, how we are like that too. Independent, we don’t need guidance or protection or advice. Until we do. One of the great lessons of life may just be that it’s okay to run to the shelter, to fall on the knees of dependence, of constant prayer conversation with our father God.

compassiontea

Eggs in an incubator for three weeks. Preschool students making weekly field trips to visit the eggs. And then, on the anticipated day, listen, do you hear it? A chirp! There’s a tapping on that egg! Do you see the crack? Chicks, wet and tiny, start breaking free, triumphing over all the forces against them… being mailed, being jostled by preschool kids, chromosomal mishaps, the threat of unsustainable life, of being incompatible with life. The next round of worries begins for these little lives. The children gathered around, hovering over the incubator, marvel at how that little bird was once scrunched inside the egg. “How did it fit? How did it get there? Can I hold it?” So goes the steady stream of questions surrounding this birth, this new beginning. The marvel of life.

Twice a year, my son’s preschool goes through this ritual. We’re in the farm cycle right…

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