Monthly Archives: April 2013

True and Undefiled Religion

On day four of our trip to Haiti, we got up early because we had a lot to do. We ate breakfast and split into two groups. One group would head to the market for an experience they’ll never forget and the other went to the hardware store to buy the supplies we needed. All around us were a sea of people who continuously walked by like waves coming on shore. Busses, taxis, motorcycles, trucks and cars added to the madness as they weaved in and out of the people.

Upon arriving at the orphanage, we said our hellos to the staff while the kids were in school. It wasn’t long before word got out that we were there. Kids and locals started showing up quickly. We began to work on the things that needed to get done. Not long after, it was time to go to the Roboto feeding center. We packed up and headed over knowing what we were going to, but not understanding what we were about to experience.

As the trucks drove through Gonaives, it was clear we were moving into an area that was so poverty stricken that it made the place where we were working look like a good part of town. Houses were no longer built out of concrete and mortar. These houses were built from scrap wood, tarp and tin. People stared at us as we slowly made our way through the broken roads.

When we arrived at the feeding center, the sound of children singing filled the air. You could hear the joy and anticipation in their voices. The building was simple, yet sufficient. We walked in to see around a hundred children piled on top of each other. Many were seated at a long table while others were stacked three and four deep around the table against the walls. They were excited, but patient as they waited until it was time to eat.

All of the children bowed their heads as the prayer over the food was prayed. A shout of “amen” came from the children and the food began to be distributed orderly. Plates with nothing more than beans on top of rice were handed to the kids. They quickly ate and made way for the next group of children to eat. Children with their brothers and sisters fed their siblings first even if they never got a bite. This could be the only meal most of these kids would eat that day.

We headed back to the orphanage with our hearts full. We finished building a cabinet for the kitchen, leveled a table in there too, built a stool, poured a slab of concrete in the stairwell and did various other maintenance. At the end of the day, it was time to say goodbye to these children who had captured our hearts. We gave them pillows, food, supplies and new underwear as we left. The ride back to the guest house was full of tears.

God was able to do exceeding and abundantly more than we thought we could on this trip. I’m not sure whose lives were changed more, theirs or ours. We saw God move and plant seeds on this trip. We got a taste of what God calls true religion. It’s hard to go back to religion as we knew it. This was pure and undefined religion we experienced. Anything less simply won’t do.

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Spiritual Poverty

On day three, we went to a remote area outside of Gonaives. After traveling down a dirt road for a while we finally arrived at Myan. We hiked a small hill that allowed us to see the entire area. One of the first things that hits you is the stark contrast between the beauty of the land and the extreme poverty that almost overpowers it. As we began to pray over the orphanage being built at Myan, several locals hiked up to meet us.

After praying we went down, got a quick tour of the orphanage being built and then started helping out where needed. They were pouring the footings and part of the foundation on the third building. I saw a guy carrying two 5 gallon buckets full of water. I took one from him and hauled water the rest of the day. Some of the other men moved mounds of dirt and others moved rocks.

As all of that was going on, the rest of the group disappeared into the cactuses that surround the property. A couple of hours later, I went to check on them. There were more than 30 kids from the community around them singing songs and hearing the Gospel preached. Different members from our group would get up and share from their heart about God’s love for the kids. One of our drivers, Kinson, helped with the translating.

The workers at the site wrapped up around 2 since it was a holiday. With nothing more to do there, we went to the other orphanage in Gonaives to love on the kids. We also worked on a plan for the next day to get a lot of the maintenance that needed to be done. We got a list of what supplies we needed and went back to playing with the kids and the locals. After wrapping things up, we headed back to the guest house for dinner and devotions.

God came down and met us that night like only I’ve experienced a few times in my life. We had a powerful time there on that balcony that attracted a crowd of people who wanted to see what was going on. Each of us called out to God on behalf of Haiti that night. We warred for the lives of those orphans and for the people of that country. When people live in poverty they often think that God has forgotten them. We want them to know that God loves them and has not forgotten them.

I’ve learned that even in a land of plenty, there is spiritual poverty. There are people all around us every day that are suffering from spiritual malnutrition. That malnutrition leads to the belief that God has forgotten them too. It’s our responsibility as Christians to show them God’s love. We need to be the channels that spiritual change comes through to those who cross our paths every day. Just as we met the physical needs of the children in Haiti, we need to meet the spiritual needs of those around us.

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Where Do You See Jesus?

We made the five hour drive from Port au Prince to Gonaives yesterday. The trucks aren’t big enough to house the entire team so many of us rode in the beds. I prefer to ride back there since it helps me to take in the sights, sounds and smells. It brings me closer to the country when I see the people interacting in their daily lives. There is something particularly humbling when you drive through tent cities.

The tents are made of tarp and are duct taped together. Thousands of them side by side in a field or on the side of a mountain. Their homes were destroyed by the earthquake a few years ago and they can’t afford to get a new house. The unemployment rate here is astronomical. Those who do work make less than $5 a day. People walk the streets selling what they find or grow. Doing what they can to make a living.

We stopped at the mass grave site where tens of thousands of bodies are buried. So many died during the earthquake that they couldn’t embalm or bury the dead. They drug the bodies into the street, burned them to prevent the smell and carried the bones to this site. As we stood there, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many knew Jesus?” Who had come before to tell them of His love? Who had obeyed?

When we arrived in Gonaives, we stopped at the guest house to drop off our luggage and then headed to the orphanage. When we arrived, the gate was closed. TJ, the missionary with us, looked through the hole and knocked on the gate. As they came to open it, the children were shouting his name. It has been months since he was here. He ran and hid behind the truck. The gate slid open, a rush of kids came pouring out and their smiles quickly went away. They couldn’t find him.

When he appeared from behind the truck, 30 kids attacked him with huge and smiles. They climbed over each other and on us to get to him. For several minutes they poured out their love on him. They sang him a song they had learned just for him. It was beautiful. After the song, they instinctively crawled into our laps and hearts to get a refill of love. Each person on our team had several kids in their laps.

Loving them turned into playing with them. They playing spilled over into the street. There is a basketball court nearby and we all ended up there. Several locals showed up too. The next thing you know, we’re locked into a game of hoops. As one person from our group noted, there were people from Haiti, the US and the Philippines playing a game together without being able to speak each others languages.

At the end of the night, God came and met us on the balcony of our guest house. TJ asked us to share where we had seen Jesus throughout the day. Each person had seen Him somewhere and in different places and ways. It got me to thinking, “How often do we Jesus in our daily lives?” Better yet, how often are we looking for Him? He’s involved in our lives daily, but we’re so distracted by our busy lives that we fail to see Him.

Today, start your day with the intent of looking for Him. It could be in any encounter at work, school or at the store. It could be in someone you don’t know, but you see what they’re doing and God points something out to you. This is something we should all be in the habit of doing. God is not far off. He’s working for you and in you each day. Keep your eyes open, you may even look in the mirror and see Him there because you were His hands and feet to someone.

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Peace. Hope. Love.

As I’m sitting on the roof, watching the sun rise in Haiti, I’m reflecting on yesterday. We arrived to chaos which, if you’ve ever been to a third world country airport is normal. Horns blaring, cars weaving in and out of people, others are trying to carry your bags for you and all the while follow the leader through this crazy maze. We get to our vehicles, load up all our luggage into the back of these quad cab trucks and half of us climb on top of the luggage to ride in the back.

As we make our way through Port au Prince, we are a sight to be seen. Some people wave and others have a look on there face of “Did that just happen?” Red lights and green lights don’t matter. Stops signs are just a decoration on the road. Horns are the language of drivers here. It took me back to my time in Egypt. We fought the traffic for what seemed like more than thirty minutes. I was enjoying it. I must have had a huge grin because the dust in the air caked my teeth.

All of a sudden, we arrive out our first destination. An orphanage for babies and toddlers with HIV and AIDS. Peace. The chaos stopped. I didn’t hear the horns anymore. My heart began to fill with love. My eyes with tears. As I sat down, I was talking with another person from our group. A little boy named Alfred came over and sat in my lap. He grabbed the phone out of my hand and started moving my apps around. Still in conversation, I hadn’t realized that my mind had made no distinction between he and my own son.

He soon ran off and another child climbed on my lap. I kissed her on the cheek, hugged her tight and tried talking with her. French Creole is not a language I speak. While I couldn’t speak the language, I could speak love and life to her. One after the other, the kids came up, climbed on me and it was as if I were home. There was love. There was peace. There was hope. There was life.

There was a book with several of the kids in it. Each page had a picture and a story. One little girl’s mother had died. Her father, who has HIV, went away to live in a tent city. The girl was given to her grandmother who was using her to beg and get money from strangers. A pastor came to her rescue and took her to that home. She’s getting food and the medical attention she needs now.

It’s a lot like us. We were abandoned in our sin. But God came and rescued us from that place and brought us into a place of peace, hope and love. He looked past our terminal disease of sin and brought us in. His Son’s blood provided the ointment for our spiritual healing. While we live in a world of chaos, He brings order and meaning to our lives. He is the One we can trust in a cruel world.

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Faith’s Roller Coaster

When I was a kid, my parents took us to Six Flags Astroworld often. I always remember the anticipation of getting to ride the Texas Cyclone. My dad, who understood physics, always had us ride in the back seat. The ride would pull out of the station, my heart would start to beat faster. The ride pulled to the left and started the ascent up the first hill. Click, click, click. The smile on my face was so big my cheeks hurt. Click, click click. It went up so slowly that it seemed like forever to get to the top. Click, click, click.

All of a sudden I could hear the screams from the front car as they reached the top. Click, click, click. As I saw the hill approaching I would raise my hands. The suspense would kill me. I knew the rush that was about to come from going over the top. Click. I took a deep breath. Click. And suddenly, we were off on a set of twists and turns, peaks and valleys. The joy of getting thrown around side to side was too much. I was both laughing and scared at the same time as my stomach would come up to my throat.

I’m there in my life right now. I’m on my way to Haiti today to help build an orphanage. For the past six months the anticipation was much like waiting to go over the top. One month to go. Click, click, click. Passports ready. Click, click, click. Doing fundraisers to help raise the money needed. Click, click, click. Final check lists done. Click. Bags packed. Click. Arriving at the airport. Click. It’s time to take a deep breath and hang on for the ride.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I know God has something good in store, but there are so many unknowns. I can worry and scream about what’s coming or I can smile, throw my hands up and prepare for the ride. When I got in the car, I gave up my right to control what happens. It’s in control of going where the tracks lead. When I gave my heart to Christ, the same thing happened. I gave up control. My life is heading where His tracks lead.

I’m not sure why I get so nervous about the future. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “So don’t worry or be anxious about tomorrow.” He’s got the future, your future under control. There’s no sense in worrying about it. Just like on the roller coaster, you can’t always see what’s next. You may be able to see the mountains and valleys and turns coming, but what’s right in front of you is often a mystery. That’s the beauty of a roller coaster. That’s the beauty of life.

You aren’t in control. God is. Let Him worry about tomorrow. Give it over to Him. Smile. Throw
your hands up. Scream. Enjoy the ride. It will end before you know it. When you give up your life to God and allow Him to control it, you gave up the rights to a boring life. You just got on the Texas Cyclone! Your stomach might be in your throat some days. You might be out of breath on others. But when the train pulls in the station, you’ll be glad you got on the ride and want to do it again.

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Faith’s Roller Coaster

When I was a kid, my parents took us to Six Flags Astroworld often. I always remember the anticipation of getting to ride the Texas Cyclone. My dad, who understood physics, always had us ride in the back seat. The ride would pull out of the station, my heart would start to beat faster. The ride pulled to the left and started the ascent up the first hill. Click, click, click. The smile on my face was so big my cheeks hurt. Click, click click. It went up so slowly that it seemed like forever to get to the top. Click, click, click.

All of a sudden I could hear the screams from the front car as they reached the top. Click, click, click. As I saw the hill approaching I would raise my hands. The suspense would kill me. I knew the rush that was about to come from going over the top. Click. I took a deep breath. Click. And suddenly, we were off on a set of twists and turns, peaks and valleys. The joy of getting thrown around side to side was too much. I was both laughing and scared at the same time as my stomach would come up to my throat.

I’m there in my life right now. I’m on my way to Haiti today to help build an orphanage. For the past six months the anticipation was much like waiting to go over the top. One month to go. Click, click, click. Passports ready. Click, click, click. Doing fundraisers to help raise the money needed. Click, click, click. Final check lists done. Click. Bags packed. Click. Arriving at the airport. Click. It’s time to take a deep breath and hang on for the ride.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I know God has something good in store, but there are so many unknowns. I can worry and scream about what’s coming or I can smile, throw my hands up and prepare for the ride. When I got in the car, I gave up my right to control what happens. It’s in control of going where the tracks lead. When I gave my heart to Christ, the same thing happened. I gave up control. My life is heading where His tracks lead.

I’m not sure why I get so nervous about the future. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “So don’t worry or be anxious about tomorrow.” He’s got the future, your future under control. There’s no sense in worrying about it. Just like on the roller coaster, you can’t always see what’s next. You may be able to see the mountains and valleys and turns coming, but what’s right in front of you is often a mystery. That’s the beauty of a roller coaster. That’s the beauty of life.

You aren’t in control. God is. Let Him worry about tomorrow. Give it over to Him. Smile. Throw
your hands up. Scream. Enjoy the ride. It will end before you know it. When you give up your life to God and allow Him to control it, you gave up the rights to a boring life. You just got on the Texas Cyclone! Your stomach might be in your throat some days. You might be out of breath on others. But when the train pulls in the station, you’ll be glad you got on the ride and want to do it again.

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The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I heard a scripture a couple of weeks ago and I’m still chewing on it. I’m going over it in my mind over and over. I’m still not sure everything that it means, so I’ll keep chewing on it, breaking it down, thinking it through and pondering how it applies to my life. This simple phrase from matthew 11:28-30 keeps rolling around in my mind. Jesus said, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Jesus says it after asking some good questions. He asked, “Are you tired? Worn out?” Then He offers for us to go to Him, get away with Him and to recover our life. He will show us how to take a real rest by walking with Him and working with Him. He says, “Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” It reminds me of a father teaching His child how to do something.

Watch me. Learn from me. I’ll show you how to do it. Do what I do. That’s a father’s heart. He wants to show us the rhythm of life. Real life, not this life we’re living that is inundated with emails, phone calls and traffic. Life that is unforced and natural. A spiritual life that loves others, does what is right and follows in His steps. He promised right after that, “I won’t lay anything heavy or Ill-fitting on you.” He’s not a burdensome God. His desire is simp,y to spend time with us.

The longer that I’m a father, the more I realize His love for us and His desire to just spend time with us. Our lives are to bring Him joy. We were designed to walk with Him and to spend time with Him. We weren’t meant to carry heavy burdens. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In I Peter 5:7 It says, “Give ALL your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.”

I think giving them over to Him is the first step to learning those unforced rhythms of grace. We can’t move well when we are bogged down with things that we can’t do anything about. Release them to Him and find rest. I know it’s easier said than done. It takes a shift in your thinking. Once you come to the realization that worrying about your problems won’t solve it, you have the ability to release it to God and find rest. The Amplified version describes that rest as “relief, ease, refreshment, recreation and blessed quiet.”

Maybe that’s where you are today. You need to learn those rhythms of grace, but you have to let go of the burdens of the past first. You can’t let the worry of the unknown interfere with those rhythms either. Your life is precious and our Father wants you to learn His ways and to find rest in Him. He wants to refresh your soul today if you’ll just let Him. Don’t hold onto the things that keep you from walking forward with Him.

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