A Wink and a Nod

One day, two clean-cut young men dressed in stark white, freshly pressed shirts and black dress pants rang my doorbell. As I opened the door, they asked if I had received Jesus as my Savior and would I mind if they came in and shared the Gospel according to the Mormon Church with me. People have all kinds of reactions to door-to-door solicitors and preachers, most of which are less than hospitable. Most of the time, my inclination is to get rid of the person as quickly as possible without being outright rude. But these two were a bit interesting. Yes, I have accepted Jesus as my Savior, so really the literature they were holding out should be saved and used perhaps at a house down the way where Jesus is a curse word rather than a name of holy praise. One pushed further. “Do you believe God has sent prophets to our world even today?”

Now that was a great question! There is an overriding sense in Western culture that God is dead. Burning bushes, seas opening up for people to cross over, staffs turning into snakes and back again, flaming altars quenched by rains that appear out of nowhere after a lengthy drought… those are the stories of a time so long ago it almost feels irrelevant. It certainly feels antiquated and archaic. God just doesn’t appear to His people anymore, let alone send people into the world to prophesy.

When these two young men showed up at my door, I was beginning an eye-opening process whereby God was opening my eyes to the ways in which He does work in the world minute-by-minute, second-by-second, behind the scenes, covertly arranging and mystifying the person willing to look. At the beginning of this process, God had introduced me to a woman, a very good friend, who dreamed dreams, saw God in places I would never have thought to look, and who boldly and uncompromisingly preached God’s Gospel. Did I believe at that point that God sends prophets into the world even today? Yes. It was fun to see the faces of those two men when I jumped into my own experience with a prophet of today. Yep. There wasn’t much else they could say or do except invite me to join them at church someday.

Willing to look for God in my world, I am now seeing Him everywhere! One of my favorite places to look is in creation. When the white moon hangs over the brilliantly green ridgeline in the abundantly blue sky, my heart soars in praise of His creativity and goodness. But God is unlimited and even when we try to limit Him because of our own smallness, He shows up in big ways. If you are willing to look.

For example, this blog has been writing itself in my head for the past week. On Friday, Joni Eareckson Tada emailed this as her daily devotional.

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3 (NKJV)

It’s time for the NBA basketball finals. When Ken and I went to a playoff game in the Los Angeles Staples Center, we sat in the cheap seats-up so high in the stadium we had a difficult time seeing the basketball players on the court. They looked so small. But then I glanced at the towering jumbo screen above the court. What a difference! We could see every player up close. Even facial expressions!

The screen magnified what was already there. The magnification didn’t actually make the players bigger, they just seemed bigger to our eyes. Every aspect of each player could be enjoyed. Here’s my point: When we “magnify” the Lord, we make the God who looks small in the world’s eyes seem…huge! No, we could never change anything about Him. He’s the same “size” He has always been. We can’t make Him any more grand or great or powerful than He already is. We just “enlarge” Him before the world’s eyes so they can see Him up close.

As Christians, our lives are a little like that jumbo screen. Through our actions and attitudes, we enable others to see God better. When we let the Lord showcase His grace and power in our lives, when we display His peace and patience and joy in our daily attitudes and circumstances, then we truly are magnifying Him.

The world has such a diminished impression of God. He appears so insignificant to so many. Most people don’t even take notice of him. This is why the world needs to see the true details about who God actually is. They need to see Jesus, in His love, His strength, His majesty, and His tender care.”

God knew what was on my heart; He probably put it there! Here’s a wink and a nod that I’m on the right track. Because we put limitations on God, have reduced Him to archaic and antiquated, we also don’t look for Him. But believe me, He is still showing up!

The Compassion Tea team believes that God is our CEO. That is one of the founding principles of our company. We invite Him to join every activity we have whether it be our weekly meeting or while we are preparing for a large event. We believe He comes and directs our paths. This week, He has led us down some amazing roads and reminded us of people He has put in our paths before who might be resources of information and aid to us. We only see a few puzzle pieces at the moment, but knowing that God sees the whole completed puzzle before us is enormously calming. He will reveal each piece as it becomes relevant to our road, to our puzzle. And we are so excited by the possibilities for outreach and compassion.

Let me relay one way God showed up for us recently. The first weekend in June was the big World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. If you follow us on Facebook, you know that some of our team attended. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom had recently been to London for business. While there, they had the opportunity to purchase a special tea produced by the East India Company and picked from a bush HRH Prince Philip planted in 1954 in Sri Lanka. Only 500 caddies of this tea were produced and numbered. Ed and Wendy presented this gift to Anne and Lee Kennedy, Compassion Tea’s dynamic president and spouse who have done so much for the company, while in Las Vegas at the Expo. The number of this particular caddy? 85. Because they are willing to look for God, Ed and Wendy asked if anyone could come up with a special significance to that number. Lee did. “We have 85 memberships as of today!” A wink and a nod from God. When Lee and Anne returned home, membership 86 came in!

I think the world sometimes scoffs at Christians who look for God to show up and who see His influence. Happen stance, coincidence, fortune, magic, science, “miracle of modern medicine,” astrology are all ways the world today explains God showing up. Let’s call it what it is, people. God’s got a wink and a nod for you, too. Will you catch it?

You’ve Got Mail!

“Is there anything in the mail for me?” This has become the daily refrain. Most days, the answer is a defeating, “No. Nothing but bills and ads.” But occasionally, the kids receive a card from a diligent family member or friend who remembers every major and minor holiday or something that I bought off those daily discount websites. The best days are the days around holidays when a care package from a grandparent arrives. The kids are like raccoons… prying and clawing their way into the box, rooting through its contents, tossing what belongs to the other aside, all in a flurry of tissue paper, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap. It’s over before it even began. Long before I can get the camera ready.

Imagine receiving a box with that same childlike excitement! Imagine tearing into it expectantly only to discover that the contents had been ransacked. The items you were anticipating breathlessly had been stolen out of the box. I don’t think my kids would survive the trauma.

It turns out that this is common in the African mail systems. Last year, CareNow Foundation sent a shipment of 200 kilos worth of pharmaceuticals to Mission Medic Air in Zambia. However, Zambian customs officials opened the boxes, removed about half of the medicines, closed up the boxes, and sent them on as if nothing was missing or awry. These medicines were to treat malaria, parasites and worms, burns, and infections… common ailments in rural Africa. This year, when Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom, of CareNow Foundation and Compassion Tea, traveled to Africa in November, they took seven suitcases full of medicines and medical supplies with them to distribute to the clinics CareNow Foundation supports, including those supplied by Mission Medic Air. While visiting with members of Mission Medic Air, the Bjurstroms saw that certain medicines were almost out. When they returned to the States, they organized a shipment of supplies that was sent out in January. Thankfully, this shipment arrived unscathed within the last weeks!

However, because they were unable to visit Dawn Faith Leppan at the 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa during their November trip, the Bjurstroms organized a shipment of medical supplies to Ms. Leppan and her clinic. Following on the tails of the happy news out of Zambia, came a separate email. The supplies CareNow Foundation sent to 1000 Hills Clinic in South Africa did not arrive. Someone along the way ransacked the boxes of supplies, pillaged them, and left only the complimentary pouches of Compassion Tea accompanying the supplies. How disappointing on so many levels! And frustrating and irritating and, well, frankly, it just makes the blood boil. It’s the way things work in Africa. I’ve heard Ed say that while this kind of injustice makes working in Africa so much harder, it is also all the more reason to keep trying.

To her disturbing email, Ms. Leppan attached a couple of pictures of recent cases that had come into the clinic for medical care. One picture showed a woman whose breast had ruptured and was spilling out of her chest cavity. The other showed a man with a 2 -3 inch swath of raw, open wound across the back of his neck. The man was diabetic and had been turned away from another hospital, one that hadn’t been able to treat him. These two individuals were in obvious need of medical care. Dawn and her staff did what they could. But wouldn’t it have been nice if they had had those medical supplies to help them help others?
The other day, our doorbell rang. It was a young lady claiming to live just up the road from us. She gave a long story about how her father is a Marine and she wants to go to aeronautical engineering school and she needs help raising the funds to do so. As she wove her tale, it became more and more evident that there was little reality to what she had to say. And yet, I listened. Somewhere in the back of my head a little thought came forcing its way out, “Jesus calls us to be generous.” I ended up supporting her cause. Shortly thereafter, my neighbor began texting me about this gal. He was obviously upset that she had been to his door. Upset at her lies, upset at her solicitation, upset to be bothered… who knows exactly… but upset. And in my usual way, I began to feel guilty and gullible. What a schmuck I must be to give money to a liar/ door-to-door solicitor. But I did, and as I mulled this over, I threw up this prayer: “Father God, I pray that you help that child. I don’t know what has driven her to create such a wild story and to go door-to-door selling magazines. But it obviously isn’t good. Lord, use that money to help her reach out of her situation, to find you and to know you better. Amen.” The Bible tells us repeatedly that God can take the bad and make it beautiful.

So, will you pray with me that God will take those stolen medicines and medical supplies and turn their theft into something good? I also pray that the next box Dawn Faith Leppan anxiously tears open will hold untold joy… that she will be able to raccoon her way through the contents in obvious delight at the different ways she will be able to help the “least served” in her neck of Africa.