Do you have someone in your life that you have invested so much of your time, energy, and effort into concerning God’s love? You’ve given your heart, soul, mind, and strength to this person, desperately wanting him or her to know and understand who the Lord Jesus is and all that He has to offer. Through your loving words and Christlike ways, you’ve plowed the field, you’ve dug up the rocks, you’ve pulled out the roots, you’ve planted the seeds, you’ve watered, and you’ve waited. And the result is….nothing. You’re tired.
I have a couple of young friends that have won a place in my heart; I love them with God’s love so it’s deep and rich and full. Right now, when it comes to each of them believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior, there seems to be only an empty plowed up field. Rows of nothing. Will the blinders ever come off their eyes? Will they ever bend their knee to His love? Will they ever receive His grace, His mercy, His peace?
Will I ever get to see a small green shoot pressing through the deep rich soil?
This is when I must turn to God’s word, and claim His promises. To the same degree I want my young friends to believe in God as Savior, I must also believe in Him as Promise Keeper–the one Who keeps His word. I must have faith too! I must leave no room for doubting Him in my own heart… this is the very thing I am asking of my loved ones, isn’t it?
So, I will stand boldly on His promises, and wait, not with hopelessness, but with expectancy, because I believe in His word:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
Keep your hands to the plow, my fellow co-laborer in Christ. Do not be discouraged when there seems to be nothing. God is at work in ways we cannot see; and He is working, right now. Trust Him. Water your seeds with steadfast love, ongoing prayer, unwavering faith, and expectant hope.
Then sooner (or later) you and I can rejoice in that tender green shoot sprouting up from the furrowed ground.
As I mentioned in my last post, I asked the Lord to "break my heart" as I traveled to Ethiopia on a missions trip with my daughter Emmy, my son Bink, and our family friend Christian. We were with an organization called Ordinary Hero whose primary goal is to "change the world for one." Over the next several posts in the next few days, I would like to share my Ethiopian experiences and photos with you. Here are the first two pages, labeled Seeking and Finding,of my Ethiopian Scrapbook:
Page 1-- Seeking
One of the places our team visited was Korah, a poverty sticken community that survives primarily through the provisional garbage dump that it sits next to. The first day we visited this village, I met several young children, one in particular whose name is Eshetu. This 15 year old boy was content to just sit by my side and smile; occasionally, we attempted broken conversations about his life and about Jesus. When it was time to go, we hugged and went our separate ways. The next day our team went back for another visit. I had barely stepped off the bus in Korah, and there was Eshetu, waiting for me. He sought me out, grabbed hold of my hand, and stuck close by me the entire day.
Page 2-- Finding
Also, during my first day at Korah, I went into a home, which was no more than a one room scrap metal shack. The mother of six who lived there proceeded to roast us coffee beans over some burning embers in a small pan so that she could welcome us properly. While waiting for the coffee to brew, I sat and talked to two young Ethiopian men, Kennedy 19 and Takley 21. They were both Christians, and I could tell by their peaceful expression and the words they spoke to me about Jesus, that they loved the Lord with all their heart. They told me that they were leading a group of young boys through Romans; I was so thrilled to hear this news! Somehow, I wanted to bless them. My team leaders said that they both needed money to help with their education. So, the next day, while holding Eshetu's hand (mentioned on page 1), I kept a keen eye out for Kennedy and Takley. It was about time to leave...and finally... I found them. When I blessed them with the financial gift, we rejoiced together as brothers and sister-in-Christ.
Thoughts on Seeking and Finding
During the time I was in Ethiopia, I know full well that I had to depend completely on the Lord to do the things that I did. All my senses are ulta-hyper, so the sights and smells of Korah were almost too much for my wimpy disposition. As I walked through the community, I found myself praying, Jesus come alive in me... please rise up in me...overcome me...claiming,it is not I, but Christ who lives in me. And then, by His grace, I would experience both His peace and joy to do all that He asked me to do in each particular moment I was there. So I was "Christ-like" when Eshetu sought me out, and clung to my side; and I was also "Christ-like" when I found Kennedy and Takley and blessed them. These actions made me think of my own personal walk with the Lord:
Do I seek Him, and cling to Him the way Eshetu did to me? The psamist says it well: O God you are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You... my soul clings to You; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1, 8
And do I realize that Jesus pursues me and gives me blessing upon spiritual blessing when He finds me, the same way I did physically with Kennedy and Takley? And do I know that He rejoices with me in the blessing? Again scripture speaks to this: What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the niety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:4-5
I am thankful for Eshetu, Kennedy, and Takley. They each tenderly broke my heart and brought me closer to my Savior. I will continue to pray that God will stay ever so close to them as they walk and live in desperate city of Korah.
Here are the next two pages of my Ethiopian experiences, entitled Waiting and Hoping:
On another day while in Ethiopia, our Ordinary Hero team visited a Catholic Orphanage. The sweet children flocked around our young team members as they played basketball, blew bubbles, and handed out suckers. I loved seeing Bink and Emmy walk into this place completely unihibited by the poverty all around them. They both loved the children so completely, so beautifully.
Upstairs in the orphanage, I found a small room of disabled children. There, laying on thin flimsy mats, were two young girls with what I assume was muscular dystrophy. One girl's skin was so cold and damp, and she was so motionless except for her eyes, I had a sad sensation that she was dying. The other girl could only move her stiff arms in quick back and forth motions; she also could make a sputtering noise with her lips when she was happy. I sat beside these girls and held their hands, rubbed their forearms, and...prayed: Please sweet Jesus, heal these girls. I know You can...please do this for them...nothing is impossible with You...You are the healer...do something!!!! I waited...and nothing. What did I expect, that they were going to get up, take up their mats and walk? Well this very thing happened in Jesus' day, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, isn't He? Yes, I know and believe He is. But at this moment in time, as I sat with these crippled girls, I had to just trust in the Lord and His ways. These girls are waiting... waiting for this world to pass...waiting for a future hope and a future home. I prayed for them as they lay there: that Jesus would come to them as their Savior, that He would comfort them in ways that I cannot understand, that He would speak to them somehow in the long days and nights, that He would someday dance with them in heaven. My heart, once again, broke. After a while, it was time to go; I gently kissed them on the cheek, got up and left these sweet girls, with Jesus, in the room. They will wait together. Yet those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength...they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31
One more place we visited was called Hope 4 the Hopeless. This ministry's goal is to pull the suffering children off the streets and give them a place of refuge. I embraced this ministry 100% because their desire is to give these homeless kids a bed for their weary bodies, food for their hungry bellies, and the word of God to their lonely hearts. The two Ethiopian leaders are mighty men with a divine call, and I was so thankful to support them through funds from a generous friend back home who asked me to meet a need wherever the Lords leads me. I loved to see evidences of God's word impacting the children who had been living in this shelter 2 weeks, 2 month, 2 years...
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure; making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgements of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether; they are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them, there is great reward. Psalm 19: 7-8
I pray that God will continue to bless these children both now, and those who are rescued from the streets in the future, with the living hope, Jesus Christ.
Here is one more page of my adventure in Ethiopia, labeled Abounding:
One of the most disturbing things to me while I was in Ethiopia was how the street kids in the big city of Addis Ababa would come up and tap on our bus windows and beg for food or money (or anything!). One afternoon, we were surrounded by these children, but we couldn't hand anything out due to the dusruption it would have caused amongst them. My heart ached as I just sat there and I watched these desperate children at my window. I wrestled with this unsettling question:Why am I on the inside of the bus? And:Why am I not the one out there tapping on the window? I took this thought to bed with me that night, and woke up to it the next morning. In my quiet time, the Lord began to answer my searching heart in His word: ...for I have learned , in whatsoever state I am...to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13). So that's it? It's okay that they are the ones suffering need, and I'm the one who is full? We are to be content with our lot that is handed us? Hmmm....I kept reading in Philippians, and was struck by Paul's words only a few verses later: But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received...the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. (Phil 4:18). Ahh, I see...God uses His people to pull the suffering and needy "into the privileged bus", so that they too, may abound.
Interestingly, the same day that I read these verses, we were traveling to our next destination out in the countryside. Our bus made a pit stop at a hotel for all those who needed to go to the bathroom (and yes, "a pit" is what we got...just a hole in the ground for us ladies). Outside this hotel, was yet one more young boy who lived on the streets. We asked about him, and invited him to spend the day with us so he could get a meal and receive some TLC. So...Tadaluu got into the bus. The whole afternoon, he watched us quietly and received love gratefully. When it was time for him to go home (?), he said he had nowhere to go. He didn't want to take our money because he knew he would be beaten by others. His parents were both dead. And he said of his remaining uncle, Why would he come look for me when he has already forgotten me? Our leaders, Kelly and Shane Putty, with the help of Bissy, a Christian Ethiopian who is wise in situations such as this, decided to call Hope 4 the Hopeless (mentioned in my last post). By God's design, one remaining bed was open at this shelter. I had the privilege of holding Tadaluu in my arms on the bus for two hours as we traveled to the shelter...all the while, I prayed for him: that he would find rest, that he would adjust well, that he would not be afraid, that he would someday be a mighty man of God who would spread the gospel in Ethiopia, and that he would come full circle and rescue kids off the street.
That evening, we dropped him off at his new home; he was warmly received, and was shown to his room which he shared with another young boy who was also saved from street-living. Tadaluu had a bed for the first time in who knows how long. He was safe, secure, abounding in Jesus' love.
The next day we saw him, and the transformation in just 24 hours was remarkable. I am so thankful that God used us, His people, to pull Tadaluu into the bus. It must be our business to do our Father's business: to reach outside...both spiritually and physically...one individual at a time and bring the needy and suffering into His love. Through Christ we can be abased, and through Christ, we can abound.
Here are pages 6 and 7 of my Ethiopian Scrapbook, Trusting and Serving:
On Sunday while in Ethiopia, we worshipped at Besa International Church; there, I met a 16 year old girl named Alamnesh who was invited by our leaders to join us. She was resuced from the streets five years ago... street life for any child, especially for a girl, is nightmarish. When I first saw her, she seemed hesitant and timid of our team. She and I sat beside each other on the bus as we traveled to a nearby restaurant; by this time in the trip, I had learned that a wonderful way to overcome the language barrier is to use physical touch... so, I reached out and held her hand. During lunch, we sat together and I did the best I could to pull her in, mainly by just smiling and looking directly into her eyes. When our eyes would meet, she would turn her head quickly, yet not without producing a small grin--a barrier was beginning to break.
The next day, we visited her and many others at Hope 4 the Hopeless. When she saw me, she grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes, and smiled. She showed me her room, and her few belongings. A little later, she was teaching (or trying to teach me!) how to count to ten in Amaric. The more time we spent together, the more she trusted me.
I think our walk with the Lord can be compared to my developing friendship with Alamnesh. Jesus desires each of us to spend time with Him, so we can know, understand, and believe in Him as a trustworthy Friend. After quiet intentional time spent with Him, we can undoubtedly say, But this I know, that You delight in me. (Psalm 41:11). And we can hear Him proclaim to our hearts,...you are precious in my sight and I love you... (Isaiah 43:4). I am thankful that Alamnesh risked trusting me; and I am equally as thankful that she reminded that trusting Jesus as the one unfailing Friend is worth it all.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8
Our team wanted to bless a group of women who carry extremely heavy loads of eucalyptus leaves down a mountainside for their livelyhood; they return up the mountain again and again for load after load. With funds raised from sponsors in America, Ordinarey Hero was able to purchase donkeys for these ladies; now, their backs would be free of the tremendous weight. What a beautiful physical picture of what our God does for our spiritual hearts:
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Psalm 68:19
Another way in which we wanted to bless the ladies was to wash their feet. It was a privilege to serve alongside of Bink, Christian, Emmy and others on the team. As we washed these women's feet, I thought about my Savior who did this very thing to 12 men the night He gave His life. This humble act brought me ever so close to understanding the selfless love of Jesus, King of kings. I prayed these women would sense His love as they felt our hands lathering, rubbing, cleaning, and pouring water over their mud-calloused feet. Our team's hope was that each woman would be abundantly encouraged as they walked away from us, wearing their new flip-flops and leading their new donkeys.
This act of feet washing was also a personal reminder-call for me to live like Christ every day. Jesus was and is and always will be a constant outpouring of sacrificial love. Do I give of myself each day in the way He coninually gives to me? I can only do this through His Spirit that empowers me. He says to His followers, For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I was indeed blessed to wash the feet of another.
True living... is truly loving...like our Savior Jesus Christ.
While Mac experienced "aftershocks" in Haiti, I am currently experiencing "after thoughts" concerning his trip.
Due to viewing his pictures and videos several times, I can attest to the fact that Mac's more-than-sharp surgical knife was put to use on the severe wounds of the earthquake victims. To begin these operations, anesthetizing took place; then Mac made his initial entry-- cutting cleanly, quickly, efficiently. Once "in", he administered whatever was necessary in order to bring about optimal healing.
With this information in mind, listen to this verse:
The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of the soul and the spirit, of both joints and marrow and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I love this analogy. The Message translation actually calls the God's word a surgeon's scalpel. So, just as Mac's operating knife began the healing and restoration of the physically injured Haitians, God's Word can and will bring the same spiritual healing and restoration to our hearts. He know us, inside out. Let His Word of love "in."
I have a picture I would like to share with you; hopefully, you will be able to "stomach it" long enough to get a beautiful glimpse of God's wonderful ways. I sincerely pre-apologize if it's too much, but just look for a few seconds in wonderment of the human body, and of God's love for each of us. (If you are reading this via email, click twice on the title and it will take you to respitefortheweary.com to see the photo should it not appear).
When you look at the picture, think of the Surgeon's scalpel, the word of God, in your own life "hurts". Be confident that through the peace of the Holy Spirit living in you, His Word penetrates in the just the right way-- carefully, precisely, and accurately--for your benefit. You are His beloved patient.
And now look at the main forearm bone in the picture. Do you see the fracture that was set back in its proper place? A stainless steel plate was inserted right beside the set bone. This plate is much like your God-- where you are broken and weak, He is supportive and strong. With Him, you are now better off than you were before.
So let your Healer come to your rescue. And let the Surgeon's Scalpel, His word, do its beautiful work where you are hurting. Then let Him bind up your wounds. Know and believe this promise:
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Psalm 149:4
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4
Your creation speaks...without words! The sun shouts, "Marvelous Maker;" the moon proclaims, "Faithful Sustainer," the stars sing, "Light of the World!" Cause each of us to gaze at your beauty, recognize you as the Author and Artist, and then worship you with reverence, all day and all night. Amen.