Packing Light

Reposted from August, 2014 before leaving for a trip to Thailand

The Mission of the Seventy

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.  Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.  Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.  Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’  And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.  Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.  Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Luke 10: 1-9 NRSV

A couple of years ago, I forgot my suitcase when I was flying home from Pennsylvania. Besides giving friends and the Smartpark driver at the Philadelphia airport something to laugh at all day, I was able to travel unencumbered.  What a freeing experience!

Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals…

What?  Ok,  it is the 21st century, we might need sandals, and at least a bag for our passport…

and money

and phone

and ipod

and tablet

and change of clothes

and Bible

and.. and… and…

What would a travel experience look like if we took Jesus’ words to his disciples to heart? What if we left our luggage at home?

What can you actually live without for one or two weeks?  What can you wear more than one day? Can you go wireless?  Can you use only what your hosts use for personal hygiene, entertainment, daily life? Can you leave out the stuff that would make you look more affluent than your hosts?

Honestly, I struggle with this myself.  I love my ipod, can’t LIVE without my music.   My tablet has a library full of books on it.  I like to change my clothes every day.  And then there is the duct tape, the little knife, the sewing kit… what if someone needs it?

My desire to travel light and to serve humbly collides with my “be prepared” Girl Scout self.  So as I pack for travel,  I walk the line between want and need, luxury vs basic, safety and faith.  May the result be inoffensive to the villagers in Thailand and acceptable in your sight, God.

Solder, Gold, and Heart Fragments

When I was little, I loved to watch my dad in his workshop.  I learned the basics, just enough to be handy around the house.

One of the tools that fascinated me in the shop was the butane torch that melted the solder.  I loved how the blue flame shot out of the nozzle, almost invisible.  I loved, and was intimidated by, how that flame could be aimed at such a precise location to melt a little piece of wire.  I loved watching the wire soften and melt, the molten silver liquid forming in and around its target to strengthen and seal.

Do you see God in heat and solder?  God’s refining fire, aimed at our spots that need to be repaired?

One of the most precious gifts we have is for God to break our hearts.

Break our hearts for the unloved, the discarded

Break our hearts for victims of trafficking and forced labor

Break our hearts for the powerless

Break our hearts for the hungry, the thirsty

Break our hearts for this broken world

God knows the places that need to break in us, places that need some extra heat.  If we pray the prayer “God, break our heart for what breaks yours” God will surely answer.  But then what?  What happens to all those broken pieces?

When I first saw Kintsukuroi, or kintsugi (“golden joinery”), the Japanese art of repairing damaged pottery with gold, I thought of our broken hearts.  Kintsukuroi restores functionality to a broken vessel, but also adds beauty and worth. It turns brokenness into the most valuable part of the piece.

God does break our heart, but doesn’t leave the pieces laying on the table.

The fragments of our heart lay in God’s hand, being lovingly soldered back together with God’s love, put back together with a love that makes our hearts stronger, more beautiful, more aware of God’s world.

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.  Isaiah 64:8

God, may we each be willing to be vulnerable to heartbreak, unafraid of your refining fire.  Give us the courage to lean into the heat and the discomfort, opening ourselves up to be cracked, and willing to be patched up with your loving hand.  Shape us and mold us, God, to be compassionate people who see all of humanity through your eyes.  Call us, your broken people with patched up hearts, not only to serve, but to be served, humbly accepting love as well as giving it, remembering that we are all your beloved children.

Pride and Joy

 

When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble.

Proverbs 11:2 NRSV

 

Oh, how I understand this proverb in the mission context.

For as long as I can remember, I have been sensitive to heat.  Even as a little girl, hiking in the heat would give me migraines which would lead to nausea.  While the other kids were enjoying the hike, or playing afterwards, I would be laid out with a cool rag on my head, miserable.  This has not improved as an adult.  What has improved is knowing the signs of heat exhaustion and taking care of myself.

Except on the mission field.

I have been serving on short term mission trips for ten years.  Each work trip is hard physical work in heat.  Each of those trips I worked to keep up with the others.  I was not going to be the weakest.  Each trip, there were extended times of headaches and various stages of heat exhaustion. Times where I had to remove myself from the group.

The defining moment for my prideful self was Haiti 2011 I was representing International Ministries, visiting work in Haiti.  In a short two days, I served with two teams building rubble houses. I needed to “keep up”. I was breaking up rubble, passing buckets full of rock, catching empty buckets, and banging rocks into place.  I was desperately trying to keep up with the team, even in the hot sun, knowing my limits.  My head started to hurt.  I drank more water.  And I started to work on a project in the middle of the street where there was no shade.  The rest of the team was working, I was not going to stop, even knowing the warning signs.

Too late, I gave in to the headache and quit.  I remember laying in my bunk so miserable, thinking I could just die or take a cold shower.  Dying seemed a better idea, until the nausea kicked in.  I will spare you the details.

My pride to keep up and work beyond my limits not only made me miserable, but it took several other people away from their ministry to tend to me.

Did I prove anything?  Only that I am too proud to accept my limitations.

Believe me, there is nothing honorable about losing your breakfast in a Haitian toilet.  Nothing.

Three years later, I was back on a work trip.  In the heat.  With a week of hard work ahead.  This time, I have physical limitations from the cardiologist.  This time, I make a conscious decision to put my pride aside and lean into my limitations.  I am coming to realize that God gave me this body, beautiful in its brokenness.  I am learning to understand that I have strengths in my weakness.

Was it hard to back off from the heavy work? Absolutely.

Was there guilt that I wasn’t contributing?  Sure.

But in letting go of pride, I let God in.

I realized in a new way the deep love of the God who meets us where we are.

I understood that raw space between ”I can’t”  and reaching for strength.

In the difficulty of my limitations, I found the unlimited joy of a loving God.

This will be a lifelong struggle, this pride.  By the grace of God, pride will fall, and joy will overcome.

To God be the Glory!

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

There was a boy in college who used to come through my checkout line at the bookstore.  His name was Justin Case.  Say it out loud.  Yep.  I think of him a lot.  I must, since I say his name frequently.

I need to save this piece of yarn, Justin Case.

I better stock up on tamales, Justin Case.

We should move all the plants inside, Justin Case.

Sometimes, Justin Case is necessary.  Like tying down all the deck furniture and moving the plants inside before a hurricane.

But Justin Case can be a symptom of worry and a lack of faith.  And he has a cousin.. What If?

When God provided manna in the wilderness he did so with specific instructions through Moses. “And Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.”  Exodus 16: 19-21

When Jesus told us to pray “Give us each day our daily bread”  Matthew 6:11  Did he mean it?

As I look around my life, I realize that I need to let go of Justin Case.   I really didn’t know him that well, anyway.  And I need to banish his cousin What If.

Taking one day, one minute, one breath at a time helps keeps me in the moment with God.  Some breaths are jagged, some minutes long, and some days feel like they will never end, but knowing that there is One who will give me what I need… not what I necessarily want…every single day is an amazing comfort.

Loving God,

Give us each day our daily bread.

Our daily

…patience

…strength

… peace

… courage

… joy

… grace

… mercy

Keep us grounded in today.

Not yesterday, we can’t change the past.

Not tomorrow, worrying about the future can paralyze us.

Open our eyes to your gifts in the present.

Mobilize us to multiply your gifts to bless others.

Amen

Stepping out of the Junk

Today, during my centering prayer time, I saw Jesus.

I was standing in my yard surrounded by my “stuff”

Not material things.

My baggage.

Shame,

Regret,

Impatience,

Frustrations,

Self Doubt,

Judgements,

Depression.

 

All littering my space.

Distracting me. Dragging me down.

Killing my spirit. Paralyzing me.

 

When I looked up I saw Jesus across the street.

He beckoned.

C’mon, my love.

Cross the divide.

Leave the junk.

Just focus on me.

You remember,

The one who died for you.

The one who carries you.

The one who wipes away every tear.

 

I took the first step…..

Spider Webs

When I was listening to God this morning, I saw the image of a spider web.  Almost invisible, but strong, and blocking my way.

Maybe you have walked through a spider web. An observer can find it somewhat humorous, watching the unsuspecting human flail about, trying to get through that sticky, barely discernible web. Once through, you can still feel the remains clinging to your hair, your lips, your eyelashes, your fingers.  You hope beyond hope that the resident of the web has not also relocated to your body.

We know enough to slow down for speed bumps, avoid potholes, and stop at walls. We can see those blocks. Our minds react with alternate routes.

The barely visible spider webs of life are more difficult. We need to move forward, but don’t know where to start, and there’s the spider.  Someone or something that will be disturbed. Sometimes it is just easier to stay put than to go through. But staying in one place doesn’t encourage growth.

I have been trying to identify the invisible blocks that are keeping me in one place.

Doubt

Fear

Overthinking

Schedule

What ifs

Uncertainty

Opinions of others

The spider webs, the invisible walls, of our lives keep us from experiencing the very best God offers to us.  What might your spider webs be?  What is keeping you from moving forward in your faith, from drawing closer to God.  How are spider webs paralyzing you in your life?

For me, there will always be spider webs, but recognizing they are there, and stepping forward in faith will keep me from being paralyzed in my own fears and growing ever closer towards the person God created me to be.

Watch Your Language!

Did you ever hear “watch your language!” as you were growing up, raising children, or maybe even out on a sports field?  I sure did, and I hardly ever swear.  Yep, hardly ever.  I love Jesus but I cuss a little.  Very little, but you can still pray for me.

It has been 12 years since my first mission trip, and in those 12 years I have been learning a second language.  Not Spanish, Thai, Serbian, Arabic, Japanese, or any other ethnic language of a country I have visited.  Not at all.  I have been trying to learn the language of mutual partnership, humble servanthood, and human dignity.

How do we, the church in the USA, talk about short term missions?

Are we going to do something for someone? Or are we walking alongside them, supporting what they are already doing?
Did we decide to go somewhere?  Or were we invited by a missionary or national partner already serving in the area?
Are we talking about what can we give to the community we visit? Or are we interested in what we can learn about the community, God’s work in the world, and the faithful brothers and sisters reaching others with the gospel?

Hmmm…
do something vs walk alongside
decide to go vs invitation
giving vs learning

Our words and actions carry a great deal of weight.  When we enter a community with the attitude that may convey “I’ve got it but you don’t” or “I am here to do it because you can’t”, we rob our brothers and sisters of dignity through our best efforts to help.

As I grow in my relationship with Jesus, meet God in the place of grace, and practice mutual partnership, humble servanthood, and lifting up human dignity, I am becoming more consistent speaking my second language when talking about short term missions.  I am not perfect, not by a long shot.

I invite you, sisters and brothers, to hold me accountable and to join me in watching your language as you talk about short term missions and put into practice this second language… and make it our first language, rooted in love, respect, and grace.

reposted from my Volunteers in Global Missions blog 2014