Posted in Living this Life

Walk on

I just can’t get over this story.

I close my eyes, and I can see him.

Face dripping with mud, eyes blind, feet walking… groping, feeling, falling, stumbling.

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I wonder if he hears laughter from those around.

Or if it’s just silence. That awkward, long silence when no one knows what to say or do.

And I don’t know why I’ve never seen it before in all the times I’ve read this story, but there is a detail hidden here that has changed the face of it for me. And brought it to life in a whole new way. John 9 tells about a man born blind. Jesus is leaving the temple after a toxic confrontation by the spiritual leaders, and here sits this man. Many who study this think Jesus’ encounter with the blind man happens as He is leaving the temple grounds. I’ve read many commentaries and discussions about Jesus strangely making mud with spit and rubbing it on the man’s eyes. But what follows is what has captured my mind lately.

After making the strange mud paste and applying it to the man’s eyes, Jesus tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Having never been there, I had never realized how far away that was. Jesus asks this man to walk 1,000 yards, or more easily understood, one half mile! Picture in your mind something that is ½ mile from where you are sitting right now.  Try to imagine what it would be like to walk that entire distance – with everyone watching while the mud drips down your face, not sure of what is actually happening.

I wonder what he’s feeling. Is he hopeful? Embarassed? Or just plain confused? I’m sure he’s heard the mocking before. He knows what everyone’s thinking – but right here, right now, he walks on. This walk must have seemed unending. One half mile of walking in the darkness towards an unknown future with hope alone carrying him.Hope in the form of mud. He must have walked this road many times before – but today, 1,000 yards must have taken forever!

I think about my own long walks toward healing. Times when the road seemed too long and there was no guarantee of what lay on the other side. When my own swirling thoughts threatened to keep me trapped in a darkness of my own making. The voice of Jesus was so quiet – but it was there. Speaking through the mud, through the confusion, through the pain – saying “walk on”.

I think about a long walk of obedience – down the longest jetway of my life onto a plane to take me to Amsterdam. I had never felt so alone in my life, but I could hear that still small voice whispering in my ear, “walk on”.

I think of sitting in a NICU ward by my baby boy – scared, confused, unsure of where this calebroad was taking me. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

Or times when I couldn’t even see a road, and the darkness screaming at me threatened to engulf me – but still His voice was there. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

So the blind man walks on – and so do we. Towards our Pool of Siloam – our pool of healing.

I can’t get over this story. Because it’s my story.

I don’t understand the mud. Many people smarter than me have pontificated long and hard about the meaning, literal and abstract, of Jesus using mud to heal a man’s blindness. I don’t understand His messy ways in my life either. I have tried, and I’m sure I will continue to try. But when the dust settles, I think the greatest truth comes from the mouth of one simple man who was born blind… “I don’t know. One thing I do know – I was blind, but now I see!”

What long hard road are you on?

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Do you feel the heat of the stares of those around you? Does the mud sting your eyes and confuse your senses?  Please don’t stop on the way to your healing! Listen – it’s His voice, saying “walk on, my friend. Walk on.”

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

Posted in Living this Life

The God who sees

So there’s this bracelet …

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

It was a hard week, last week. A few days ago, we got some news that shook me.

More than how this specific situation affected our lives, the news started a wave of emotions that seemed beyond my control. I was having a nuclear moment in my soul and I couldn’t make it stop.

The enemy of our souls will latch on to any opportunity to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) And this was the moment he grasped.

I was consumed with emotions. I felt anger. I felt confused. I felt frustrated. I felt hopeless. I felt darkness. Every morning, for these few days, I would wake up consumed by these feelings. And let’s be honest – that’s all I’ve described so far is feelings. We all know feelings can lie. So I did the only thing I know to do when feelings rage out of control – cling to the One who is always in control. The Word of my God and His promises.”From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps 61:2)

And when I turned to His Word, these are the promises I read, that stood as a strong tower over my heart: “For this is our God, forever and ever. He will be our guide even to death… LORD, YOU are the portion of my inheritance and my cup… He restores my soul… my flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever… Our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name… The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of your hands… Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace … He who calls you is faithful and He will do it… Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (Ps 48:14; Ps 16:5; Ps 23:3; Ps 73:26; Ps 33:21; Ps 138:8; 2 Pet 3:14; 1 Thess 5:24; James 5:8

Though these words didn’t stop the onslaught of feelings that were combating the truth of these beautiful promises from God, I clung to them nonetheless – and I prayed. I asked God to intervene. To help me find my way back to peace and joy.  And in my moments of despair, I asked Him for some tangible expression of His presence in this mess. It was a simple plea from a hurting heart.

Now, my friend, hear the rest of this story…

Because I have this friend. I hadn’t seen her in a couple weeks nor talked with her over that time, so she knew nothing of my situation. This friend walked up to me just a couple days after this desperate prayer and said she had something for me. She said she thought I would understand. And she gave me a bracelet.

And here is where this story takes my breath away. Two weeks earlier – long before I had hit this wall, while my days were humming along as normal – she had sensed God whisper in her ear that she was to give this to me. She hadn’t seen me since then, and so at her first opportunity, she was obedient to the nudge of the Holy Spirit. Two weeks before I would ask God for a tangible expression of His presence with me, He had already answered my prayer! He had prepared the heart of my friend, He had whispered to her heart, and His gift to me came through her beautiful hands.

This gift came to me on the exact day my heart was hurting the most. And God doesn’t miss the details – most bracelets don’t fit me well – they are just too loose, too big. This one hugs my arm like it was made for me. And to top it off, this bracelet was hand crafted in Africa – where I was born!

Friend, do you hear it in the wind? That still small voice echoing clearly through the storm? Saying “I see you. I know what you’re walking through. And I care.”

This isn’t just my story. It’s all of ours. Maybe like me, you’ve walked down long, dark roads. Maybe you have felt despair when the heavens have been silent. Maybe, along with me, you have found the faithfulness of God in those silent places.  But then sometimes when the storms are spinning in our souls, His voice breaks through in a gentle whisper.

Sometimes God chooses to capture the smaller moments when we least expect Him to show up. And in those moments He displays a beautiful truth – that He is with us. That He sees. That He truly does catch each tear in a bottle and hold it close. (Ps 58:8) He promises that when we walk through the fire, He will be with us. That the waters will not overpower us. (Is 43:2) And to be honest, that’s all I really need. Not answers to my many questions. Not a “fixing” of all my problems. Just His presence, here with me know, telling me that He sees.

So as I see that bracelet on my wrist tonight, I catch my breath. And in Him, I rest.

Posted in Walking it out

this is my story – this is my song

There are some moments in life that pass by quickly and get covered by the dust of passing time, only to be re-discovered years later as a pivotal moment in your life.

Not too long ago, I found myself driving through my old college campus, and as I rounded the backside of  the parking lot, I suddenly felt like I had stepped back in time about 20 years… feet in darkness

I was walking back to my Mission Ave apartments after an evening class with Dr. Dorsett.  I don’t remember what class was about that night, only that I was talking with God as I walked. And then I heard something stirring in my heart.  It sounded like the voice of my God, and it asked me this: “ Will you speak for me? Will you go where I ask and say what I want you to say?”

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t.

I heard the same question again. And my heart leapt at the possibilities – of where God may take me and what I might live for Him … and yet my lips uttered a quiet, resigned  “I can’t”. My heart desperately wanted to, and yet my head was clamoring with all the insecurities, questions, self-doubts … all the reasons why I would mess everything up. “I want to,” I found myself muttering under my breath, “but don’t you see I just can’t?”

And quietly life went on. I found myself wandering a bit. From Minnesota, down to a handsome young man on a reservation in Arizona, and then away… far away to Amsterdam.

beautiful Amsterdam , canals in downtownThere my heart was stripped bare. Like Aslan with Eustace, the strong claws of my God cut deep through my dragon skin and I was given new skin, a new life.1  And Jesus quietly whispered to my heart, “here, in this rawness, in the pain of finding your way, I will walk with you

I wandered some more. Back to the US, back to Minnesota, and on until I finally found my home with that handsome young man in Arizona. I found my home among a beautiful brown skinned people, so similar in heart and culture to the dark-skinned people I had grown up with in Africa. I love them as my own family – I got married among them and had my first two children among them.

Hopi Sunset

In the midst of such wonder and joy, I found myself in the middle of a wilderness I had never imagined for myself. A vast, dark, consuming cloud of fear descended on my life. A barrage of worry, a fear of loss, of death, of life – this world that I had always been enamored with now just seemed to hold threats, and I thought at times I was losing my way. And in the swirling madness, my sweet Jesus, gave me His Word, showed me the way out by the power of His promises, and whispered to my heart, “here, in this darkness, I will walk with you”

Then came those words a mother dreads. In the dark of the ultrasound room, the doctor told us that there was an “anomaly” with our baby boy (a boy! We were going to have a boy!) Next came the barrage of tests to determine exactly what the “anomaly” was – the doctors called my baby a “fetus” and offered to run tests to see if we should end the pregnancy – the horror of such words still make me shudder. Months of tests and monitoring and not knowing, until that beautiful day my baby boy exploded into our world and it has never been the same since.  We experienced the truth that there are no “anomalies”, only perfect creations of God, knit together as He sees fit. We saw miracles, unexplained healings and parts held together by invisible hands – and yet God saw fit to use the hands of doctors to do more healing. Surgery on my 3 day old, 10 days in NICU, a baby having to go home with oxygen tubes in his nose – swirling confusion, loneliness – nothing makes a mother feel smaller than knowing she can do nothing for her baby but pray. caleb

But pray! There is nothing a mother can do that is more powerful than that – pray! And in those exhausting, breathless days, my Jesus came close and whispered to my heart, “here, in this place, I will walk with you”

 

Life has moved on, as it always does. Years have passed, that fragile little baby boy with a weak heart is now a strong big boy with an irrepressible belly laugh that takes over a room. We have different scenery out our front door than we did back then. Our days are filled with all the joy and stress, laughter, tears, and busy-ness of full time marriage-ing, all-consuming parenting, and constant ministry. But some things will never change. He continues to whisper to me, “here, in this place, I will walk with you”

 

And so when I found myself in that parking lot last year, the memory – those words- came flooding back and took my breath away. “Will you speak for me? Will you go where I send you?” And my heart knelt, and I saw Him in a new way. He didn’t give up on me, on my halting and ashamed “I can’t”. He didn’t move on to the next better candidate. He just kept walking with me. And as He walked with me, I discovered that He was never asking if I could … He was simply asking if I would. He, who walked with me in the brazen streets of Amsterdam, through the swirling darkness of fear, in the midst of such confusion and pain in the NICU, in the daily pressures of now, will continue to walk with me through whatever He asks of me. And He will give me the words to speak.

 

And so today I echo the words of Moses in Exodus 33:15 when He begged God to simply walk with him.–presence And I rest on the promise of God that followed his bold request: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33) There is no other life for me.

Posted in Living this Life, Walking it out

You can fight outside

“…if they want to fight, they have to go outside”, she said, “because my home will be a home of peace”

The words struck my young heart. And have been lodged there ever since. They weren’t directed at me – but part of me wonders if they were intended for me.

Some moments never leave you. Some moments come to us in a single sentence, and transform our lives forever… or shape our futures… or heal our pasts.

You rarely know it when it’s happening. These moments don’t contain lightning bolts. They come as a gentle whisper to the soul. Sometimes I feel like Elijah, looking for the presence of God, and not finding Him in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire… “but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face…” 1 Kings 19

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How was I to know, at a mere 12 years old, how my God would shape my life through this simple woman’s words? Standing in her kitchen, watching her make dinner while eavesdropping on a conversation intended for someone else, she simply explained the power of peace in her family. She articulated a concept that I had never heard anyone put words to.

I wonder how many years passed before I thought of those words again. But they lay like a seed, planted deep in the recesses of my heart. But those simple words gave me framework on which to build my marriage. A foundation on which to build my family. The courage to take a stand and declare, “My home will be a home of peace.” Though life became tumultuous – there existed an idea – a possibility. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 shafts of light

There are more words in me – planted by people throughout my life. Gentle whispers sent into my life like shafts of light.  Some I harvest – some are still growing. But today, I celebrate all those moments. I celebrate every person who has spoken into my life.

And I think about the words I speak – the crumbs I leave behind as I walk. ”Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29  That unsuspecting bystander who sees me and my entourage of 3 in a grocery store, all of us at wits end. That it may benefit those who listen. That child who’s done something wrong and looks into your eyes- waiting for what’s to come… That it may benefit those who listen. That person sitting next to your family in a restaurant… That it may benefit those who listen. That nurse caring for your sick child… That it may benefit those who listen. Every soul, longing for some crumbs of grace to fall – something to point us to our Maker. crumbs 2

May I leave behind a trail of grace that changes lives as mine has been changed.

What words have been spoken into your life that have changed you?

meditation of heart