How Do You Prepare for a PVT?

IMG_9778“Mom, you are going to have to prepare yourself.  Time isn’t the same in other countries.  You have to take off your American-time-consciousness and your need for control of your schedule in order to just go with it.”

No truer words have ever been spoken.  You see, my daughter knows me. She knows I like to be in control.  I am a teacher; therefore, I am a plan-my-life-down-to-the-minute-and-take-charge kind of girl.  I have been doing it for so long it is natural for me to eat lunch in 17 1/2 minutes, no matter where I am.  If I am to arrive at 10:00, I will be there at 9:58.  I am conditioned to show up early because, in a school, if you are two minutes late to any place, you have disrupted the schedule of the entire building.

kids leaning out of busI plan things weeks in advance.  Field trips require buses to be reserved, lunches to be ordered, tickets to be bought, permission trips to be signed, and all of these things have to be done efficiently or disaster happens. I have been on numerous field-trips-from-hell with an entire grade level of third graders.  Once we were going to the Puppetry Arts Center in Atlanta, two hours from us, when a bus broke down on the side of the road, we went to the wrong Arts Center, and we got lost.  We missed the puppet show and had to eat lunch on the busses on the way home. Another time, we were at a nursing home and our students had an assignment to write the stories of older folks.  I had asked for the most coherent residents to be in the dining area so our kids could conduct their interviews. Instead, they pulled ALL residents into the hallways and released the kids to “go talk to someone.”  It was a teacher’s worst nightmare.  After one code blue, we left the trip hours earlier than planned to avoid traumatizing the kids any further. (And FYI, the code blue was NOT me.)

I think you get the picture, I have an aversion to unscheduled, poorly planned activities. Okay, okay I admit it…I am a control freak. Because of these types of experiences, I am a queen of time management and I kind of expect everyone else to be too.  If I get stuck in traffic, oh my!  If my precious schedule is compromised, horrors!! I begin to cut things off the list to get back on track.  What, you don’t keep a running list in your head of your schedule at all times? I do. I don’t even realize I am doing it, but my family knows it’s there. I think managing a household with four small children is where it all started, but if I am honest, I know I have always been this way.  I have also found, in America, my time sensitivities are cultivated by the culture. Which is why my daughter warned me before my arrival in Thailand. She knew it would be a struggle for me to let go of who I am. She also knew for me to truly enjoy the trip, I would have to do just that.  Because of her words to me, I made a conscious decision to let go of time and to let go of the need to know the schedule.  I decided instead to relax.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Just take off my American need to know and control. Go with the flow. I have to tell you it was not as easy as it sounds.  Yet, I immediately saw the reasons for it.

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There is this thing called a language barrier which requires more time than usual to navigate.  Also, foreign currency requires doing math, in your head, on the fly, just to do the simplest of things.  Then there is the fact that you don’t know the city, which requires you to ask directions.  Did I mention the language barrier?  When you know NOTHING about the culture, EVERYTHING takes longer.  In America everyone else knows about time pressure, but in Thailand (and most other countries, I am told) there is NO time pressure.  It is quite difficult to hurry when no one else is in a hurry. It is a lesson in frustration if you cannot drop your expectations and judgements.  And planning ahead of time?  Non-existent. You can arrange to have transportation set up, and they might show up on time, but it is more likely that they will come “after breakfast time” which could be anywhere from 8:00-10:00.   I was amazed at the skill of our logistics guy to adapt our plans as these types of things came up.  Remember, I have experience counting heads to make sure my entire group arrives, so I know the anxiety that happens when an unforeseen wrench gets thrown in and you have to improvise.  Not an easy task. Especially with a large group.  Add to that the fact, the people you are managing are adults with expectations as to how things should go, who do not fully understand the lack of time pressure, and you have a recipe for disaster with questions like this one.

“Shouldn’t AIM be able to control all variables in a foreign country, like language barriers, bus schedules, traffic, markets, currency exchanges, guides, available ingredients for food, weather, temperature, and time, to have a written schedule for us that includes each day of ministry, meals, free time and exactly what we will doing and where?”

In case you were wondering, the answer on that one is no. 🙂  My recommendation to parents going on PVT, is the same one my daughter gave me.  Just go with it. Expect the unexpected.  Let others worry about scheduling and timing.  Be in the moment.  Enjoy time with your racer whether it is doing ministry, exploring the area, or waiting on a bus.  Let go of your need to plan, and trust that every interaction is ordained by God.  Be looking for the people he puts in your path, even if the path isn’t smooth and straight. Allow your Racer to guide you.  Let them lead.  It seems odd to take the back seat to your children, but being so far out of your comfort zone will require you to lean on them, rather than the other way around. They have been doing this for a while now.  You will be amazed at how well they have adapted to the uncertainty and the day to day challenges of international travel.  Let them show you their world without imposing your own structures on it.  You are there, with them, in their element…soak in it.  How many parents get the chance to get instruction while in the field on how to be a missionary, from their kids?  Not many.  Do not let this opportunity be stolen from you by frustration with things beyond your control.  Be flexible.  When things unexpectedly change, Racers laugh and say “Welcome to the World Race.” By the time the week is over, if you embrace the experiences as they come, you will understand and be laughing too.  What do you expect? It’s the World Race.

I Wasn’t Invited

 

 

IMG_9778To the parents of World Racers who weren’t invited:

There are host of reasons for not being invited.  The thought processes for these things are as varied as the stars in the sky, and just as individual.  Racers sometimes think we can’t afford to go, so they don’t invite us.  Or they believe that launch will simply prolong a goodbye that is already putting them in an emotional state. Some of them have the idea that this is their thing and for us to be present might somehow take that away from them. Some of them want to bond with their teammates and they feel torn between the past and the present moment. Or by the time PVTs (parent vision trips) roll around later on in their race, they have grown in the Lord so much, they hesitate to disturb that growth by bringing us into the midst of it.  Some Racers have begun to gain some independence, and for the first time begin to feel like adults in their minds, to bring us into that space threatens to send them back into childhood. Some of them don’t want us to have the financial pressure to make the trip. Others simply want to show us they are doing well without us. And yes, there are a few, who are estranged with us and do not want contact.  Here’s the thing, your racer has a reason for the choice to leave you out of the mix, and the majority of the time it isn’t personal.  Truly.  It is about them, not about you.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • They still love you.
  • They do not want their choice to do this on their own to devastate you.
  • They don’t.
  • They don’t mind telling you their reasons.
  • They are not personal.
  • Ask them.
  • They still love you.
  • They are spreading their wings…some of them for the first time.
  • Let them.
  • This is something you prayed for since they were young.
  • They are following God, on their own.
  • Remember that.
  • It is a good thing.
  • Goodbyes are hard no matter where you are.
  • They worry about you.
  • They probably won’t tell you that.
  • They still love you.
  • They are as scared to be on their own as you are.
  • They won’t tell you that either.
  • They might not even know it.
  • Supporting them emotionally is just as important as supporting them financially.
  • Actually, more so.
  • Being honest about your feelings is important too.
  • Honest heartfelt conversations need to be had.
  • We do tend to ‘take over’ from time to time as parents.
  • Managing them has been our job for so long, it is hard to stop.
  • They still love you.
  • They really want to be grown-ups and make us proud.
  • To do that, they have to separate from us.
  • It is painful on both sides.
  • Growing pains always are.
  • The pain will be worth it.
  • They still love you.
  • They are excited about becoming their own person.
  • You should be too.
  • It is okay to be sad at the same time.
  • It is a grieving process as your role in their life changes.
  • Not being invited hurts.
  • Separation always does.
  • They still love you.
  • Would you really want them to stay dependent on you forever?
  • They see that wouldn’t be healthy.
  • We know they are right.
  • They are making steps to change themselves.
  • It is not personal.
  • Their time in the world expands their vision.
  • It will expand yours too.
  • They will still love you.

 

You Might be a Parent going on a PVT if…

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You might be a parent preparing for a ParentVisionTrip if:

  • The knots in your stomach have turned to butterflies.
  • You have a long, long list of items to bring, from your racer and the team.
  • You wonder how you can fit said list AND your own stuff into one carry on.
  • You consider wearing the same thing for a week in order to do so.
  • You can’t wait to meet the racer who wanted twisted bbq Fritos.
  • Or the one who wanted Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
  • You wish those items didn’t take up so much space.
  • You consider popping the airtight seals to make them fit.
  • You decide you can take less just to see their smiles.
  • You pray diligently that your body will adjust to whatever the sleeping arrangements are, and whatever the walking arrangements are.
  • You hope that AIM considered an over 50 body doesn’t bend like it used to.
  • This keeps you awake at night.
  • You decide to take extra advil…just in case.
  • You make room for it in your carry on, beside the chic-fil-a sauce.
  • You pray that you will recognize your racer.
  • You worry that you won’t.
  • You liked him/her the way he/she was before he/she left.
  • You trust that God will have done amazing things.
  • You hope that you are not too far behind them spiritually now.
  • You feel a growth spurt coming on.
  • You dream of a long-slow-motion-run-into-each-others-arms hug at the airport.
  • It makes you cry just to think of it.
  • You wonder how to prepare your heart for this adventure.
  • Suddenly packing seems like the easy part.
  • You are nervous about leaving your comfort zone.
  • You leave it anyway.
  • You realize God used your racer as bait… and you took it.
  • You’ve been tricked.
  • You laugh at God’s follow-your-kid-anywhere-they-go strategy.
  • It has been his strategy for years.
  • It works. Every. Time.

Hide and Seek

IMG_9892Around the corner. Just ahead. A rustling in my spirit draws me like a note in a song. It pulls my heart forward. I catch a glimpse.   A shadow. A dancing light. My heart turns towards it. My eyes strain to see but there is nothing. Maybe the in the next curve it will reveal itself. Whatever IT is.

 

A whiff. An inkling. It uses my curiosity against me. Or perhaps for me. Ever tugging me along. Just out of reach. I can feel it there, but it is unknown to me. I can almost see it. Almost.

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Part discontent, part anxious anticipation. Part fear, part faith. All wrapped up in hope. Surrounded in ‘could it really be?’ and ‘I’m going to do what?’ My heart cries out its need to know in this holy game of hide and SEEK.

black and white trees

Ahhh….seek. Yes. Seek jumps from the page. It catches my attention. Seek me first. Seek and you will find. Seek. A search. An attempt to discover. Seek a person and you will find the thing.

The secret. The new thing. It is waiting just around the corner to be present in the moment I arrive. But which corner? How do I get there? ‘Seek. No need to rush. It will wait for you,’ the wind says to my heart. ‘But I will explode if I do not find it soon!’ my heart replies.

The wind laughs. Pauses. Kisses my cheek as it encircles me. Calling me to follow. Inspiring me. Seek the secret. The new thing. Then it blows past. Resuming our game of hide and seek.

Lift Your Eyes

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The sun is out, and after weeks of rain, it is a pleasant feeling to look out into the upcoming year with a bit of sunshine lighting things up. It had seemed dark and dreary for so long with the news and weather cooperating, conspiring even, to bring hopelessness and darkness to everything around me that I was beginning to think 2016 would begin in that muck and mire. Now, with the sun shining brightly outside my window, I am aware of how much more I appreciate the glowing light when I have been denied its rays for weeks.

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I like to kind of close out one year before I open the next. Honestly, 2015 wasn’t the greatest year. To me it seems the world went a bit crazy this past year. I look back over my blog titles and I see a lot of traumatic world events. I see much sorrow and suffering, from the refugee crisis to the cities who endured attacks of one kind or another. I see unexpected death within my own community of too many young people. But mixed in with the hard things were some light-hearted moments and joyous ones as well. My heart is glad for those. Because despite some pretty dire trends in the world around us, there is always hope and light if you look for it.

isis walking

I am not sure what 2016 holds, but I find myself in a pessimistic place. I am holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The other “there is no hope” shoe. I am trying to be optimistic, but with the election coming I know the division in our country will increase. With Isis continuing their plunder, violence will continue to happen and images will continue to flow onto our screens. People I know will die this year. If I focus on these thoughts I will quickly slide down into a pit from which escape will be difficult.

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Yet, resounding in my spirit, I have heard a call to prayer. I believe it is a key to navigating this crazy life we live. Personally, if I could not communicate with God I would be at a loss. Prayer is my lifeline…a way to stabilize my thoughts. Rarely do I speak eloquently when I am in a hard place. I just pour out my heart and then listen to God’s heart. In this quiet place I am reminded of who is in control, and once my eyes are lifted, peace follows.

Corporately, I have sat in many prayer meetings over the course of my life, especially at the beginning of a new year. Meetings in which there was much prayer for our country. I have cried out for a revival that would reconcile us with God and with each other. Where love would take precedence over politics, and humility would bind us together in unity and care for one another. I have called for hearts to return home that have wandered far away. All prayers I have prayed with passion and a full heart in sincerity. I have cried out to God this past year for some relief from the pain of the world that feels as if it is spinning out of control. I guess I cry out louder when I think he isn’t listening.

In a conversation I had with him recently he assured me that he hears prayers and is answering them.

I said, “What? I beg your pardon? Darkness appears to be winning. I don’t understand what you mean when you say you are answering. It seems darker and more divided than ever.”

“Beloved, my ways are not your ways. Answer me this, where does revival come from?”

“Brokenness? I think.”

“Yes you are correct. And where does brokenness come from?”

“Pain?”

“Yes. And in within pain is the seed of healing. For the seed to sprout it has to be broken open. So in the breaking is where revival lives. “

“So, you are saying God that in praying for revival I am actually praying for pain?”

“You cannot pray for safety and comfort at the same time you pray for revival…they are opposites. Revival comes from discomfort and exposure. Darkness exposed to the light. So hatred must be exposed. Division must be exposed. Hypocrisy must be exposed. The wickedness must be visible in ALL people on ALL sides before I can revive…because you cannot give up what you cannot see. You cannot be healed from a wound you do not know you carry. The sooner you see your own flaws, the sooner you can be healed. The sooner individuals seek my healing, the sooner the masses will be revived.   Revival doesn’t begin out there somewhere…it begins in YOU.”

“Hmmm…not sure I like the sound of that.“

“No one does, Beloved. The darkness you see is prayers being answered. There is much evil in the hearts of men which must be exposed…by the light. Do not forget that last little part. There is light…always. There is hope…always. In the midst of the exposure of darkness humble yourself quickly, and then look for the light. And remember I will never leave you, or forsake you.”

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There is always hope!

 

So in 2016, I look for the light in the words of these foundational truths.

  • If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?
  • I will never desert you. I will never leave or forsake you.
  • In God put my trust and I shall not be afraid.
  • The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.
  • In him was life and that life was the light of the world.
  • But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
  • I will lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? From the maker of heaven and earth. He will keep your foot from stumbling; he who keeps you does not slumber or sleep.
  • We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
  • Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
  • The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
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Lift your head up!

Lord,

Once again I come to you at the beginning of a new year. I speak your words rather than my own. I lift my eyes to you. I stand strong and courageous, not with dismay and trembling because I know you are with me. I look to the stars to remember your great power and strength. I remember that if you are for me no one can be against me, and that because you are for me I need not fear what man can do to me. I thank you for your light that exposes darkness wherever it resides…even in me. I chose to humble myself quickly when you reveal areas of darkness that have blinded me to you. I thank you that you do not slumber or sleep and that you truly have all things under your authority. You breathe and our world turns. You laugh and the sun shines. Your heart breaks and you cry at the brokenness of your creation. Thank you for shining your light into the darkness. Thank you that even though the darkness seems huge, it cannot overcome your light. I thank you mostly for your life…that shines out into all the Earth. You truly are the light of the world…the whole world. Thank you that you do not leave us to our own devices. We would surely destroy one another. Give me your grace and your compassion to love as you love…and to speak on behalf of that love, which surpasses my understanding. You are my beloved, and I am yours. Continue to show me your heart…always your heart and how it beats…now and always, for me. Amen.

I am a Hypocrite

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I am a hypocrite. Allow me to explain. I have taught my children to believe in a God who protects his children. I have taught them that to be bold in their profession of faith is a desirable trait. I have taught them that to follow Jesus and to be like him should be their life’s aim. And guess what? They believed me. They believed me when I said every nation tribe and tongue. They believed me when I said, God so loved the world. They believed me when I said, red, and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. And now, they are calling me out. Or rather their generation is. They are asking me what do you mean we are not helping people that are in need? What do you mean they are dangerous? Doesn’t God protect us? Didn’t you say that he wants us to love boldly and to trust him? Why aren’t you doing that?  Wow.  Challenging me with my own words.

refugee child  refugee praising

And they are right. They look at me and they see the fear. They see my desire for safety that supersedes my capacity to love. I am a hypocrite. I am an armchair Christian who would rather sit and tell others how to live than to live myself. I am just like those who watch football, who have never even played the game, who believe they know better than all the coaches what play should be called…those who yell at the TV, because they feel as if every missed opportunity is a personal attack on them. I am one of them who sees so “clearly” what the right thing is, that I will not even consider that someone else might know more about the issue than I do.

refugee boatrefugee dead child

The undoing of my hypocrisy began several years ago during my cancer battle. Where my mantra of “just trust God” took on new meaning, because we all know that God doesn’t always protect his own…at least not in the way we profess that he does. Some people, who love him greatly, do not get healed. Trite words, which I had always thought were such a comfort to those I said them to, fell empty on the floor all around me, uttered by well-meaning people like me. The reality becomes an up-close-and-personal one when you don’t know if you will live or die. Trusting God takes on a whole new meaning when you realize you may have to trust him to raise your kids when you are gone.

Then my big-hearted daughter decided to go around the world on a mission to help those in need. Fear once again gripped my heart. I was face to face with my “trust God with your kids” speech. Was I going to believe it, or not? While she was gone she faced illness, political unrest, and natural disasters much to my dismay. Her take on it was a calm and steady belief that God was in control. Where in the world did she get that crazy idea? Oh, right, I taught her that. At least I did with my words. I am thankful that God knows that the desire of my heart is to grow in him, and that he does not leave me the same person as I was before my trust was challenged. In fact, I kind of think challenging my trust is a big part of his job.

I could continue to give you more examples of where the rubber met the road in my life, but you get the idea. The thing is that I think we are all hypocrites to some degree. I think once you realize the truth of that statement and you own it then things get easier.  I have come to see that only God really knows the truth, and he doesn’t need my help to prove it. The truth proves itself. That is such a freeing thought. I guess time will tell. Until then, I have decided to stop being an armchair Christian. I have decided instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching with contempt, I will choose to be in the midst of life where he leads me.

refugee scared child

My heart is breaking for the refugees. I cannot help that or change it; no matter how fear tries to grip me…my heart is breaking for them. They visit my dreams every night.  It will do no good to argue my point. I would be arguing with my old hypocrite self…who would never listen anyway. Instead I want to do something for them. I realize that you may not feel the same and that is perfectly okay. Maybe you feel for homeless veterans…so do something for them. Or you might be pulled towards single parents…so give them a night off by taking the kids. Or maybe you have a heart for hungry kids…so feed some. I guess my point is, we will never all agree on what to do or not to do and what God puts on my heart may be entirely different than what he puts on yours. There is a bit of beauty in that I think. My commitment is to stop being an armchair Christian. It is a call to myself to take action instead of taking aim. It is my answer to my children’s generation that, “Yes, I believe the things I taught you are true. Let me show you what I mean.” Challenge accepted.

refugee mother theresa

Dearest Y Squad

IMG_9778Dearest Y Squad,

Your blogs have done it…are doing it. Your pictures too. They are breaking up the hard ground inside of us. Reshaping the way I see the world…the way we all see it. Showing us pain. Displaying vulnerability. Painted pictures of love and of life. Life that is inexplicably hard and the compassion which softens it. Tills the rocky ground. Joins us together as the humans that we are.  I wonder if you knew, when you sang the words “break my heart with what breaks yours” with a sincere heart, that you were praying. I wonder if you realized that you were giving God permission to show you his pain. When you sang “you call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail” were you aware that it would be actual waves that would show you your failing feet? Did you know that he would take you to a place to learn the all the questions which cannot be answered? A place where you would experience what it means for your faith to stand, because your body is too weary and your mind too confused? If you had known would you have still gone?

Did you know that God’s heart was THIS broken?

You are his image bearers. He feels…deeply. And so, you feel deeply. His heart is crushed by the suffering. You cannot breathe for the weight of it upon you. He cries tears. Yours run down your face. He grieves for his creation. You mourn for all that you see. It is a very, very hard place you are in.

It is the place of why. Why is this happening? Why won’t He stop it? Why am I here? Why? Why? Then why leads to How? How can this go on? And then What. What am I doing that will change anything? -and so on and so on. The questions roll around unanswered. They are the ones that keep us awake at night when we find ourselves in traumatic and difficult situations. They are a staple of hardship, and a building block of faith. The foundation really. Where the status quo is challenged and the constructs that hold our beliefs in place come crumbling down. It is only after the breaking that they can be rebuilt. It is a humbling place is it not? A place where we recognize all that we do not know. A place of holding on despite what we cannot see or do not understand. A place of trusting without seeing. It is blindness. It is brokenness. It is faith.

I wonder sometimes if, since we are created in his image, he asks questions too. Does he say why? Why is this happening? Why won’t they stop it? Why am I even here? When they will not listen. When they will not choose me. How can they choose to harm each other over and over again? How did I go wrong? It is an odd thought I know. To think that God asks questions of us. To think that he might not know the answers either. I wonder if we are perplexing to him, we humans. One thing I do know and that is that he wants us to SEE. To see his heart, for us, for them…for the refugees…for the world.

We are all sojourners and strangers. We are all refugees. We wander. We do not belong or fit. Until he finds us and until we fall into his arms…we run. We desperately run away. Fear chases us until we are exhausted in our fleeing. We know not where we are running to, only that we must keep moving. Never stopping, lest fear catch up with us. It is only when we get still, and we are quiet enough to hear his calling to us that we begin to feel belonging. The beautiful thing is that sometimes our weary bodies are so exhausted that our spirits can suddenly hear. It can be in the midst of chaos that his still, quiet voice breaks through. It is then that he rescues us…from ourselves…as was his plan all along.

You are watching this play out in the most heart-rending way. You have extended your hands and your feet to be his love. You have opened yourselves up to be his still and quiet voice in the midst of turmoil. You have exhausted yourselves to help the exhausted ones. Funny how that works, isn’t it? You have become a drop in the ocean…and that may not sound like much…and you may wonder if it matters at all, but in His ocean every drop of love costs. And every drop of love counts. No matter that it is sweat, or tears…every drop matters. What you are doing matters. It is a God sized issue, this crisis…and in human efforts and through human eyes it is an impossible one. But his ways are not our ways. He can use even this to bring his love into the world. He can use even you. Is using you.

Are you aware that the brokenness in the world of the refugees is only a FRACTION of his pain? Think of all the trafficking, and slavery, and orphans, and…and…and. He FEELS it all. Did you know that when you agreed to go on the World Race you signed up for a tour of his heart? The world’s brokenness is something he cannot escape or ignore…he loves too much for that. But I imagine he longs for the day when he will set things right and wipe away every tear. Until that time, I know he is glad to have you to walk with him so he can share his pain. It is always such a relief to share the depth of our hearts, isn’t it? I am sure his load is lightened because you are walking with him through his heartache…and because you love while doing it. Pouring yourselves out to love the world…like he does.

Hold on tight to his hand. Watch for his face. You will see his reflection in the mirror…look in your eyes. And then you will see his pain staring back at you through the eyes of everyone you serve. My prayer is for you to have strength so that you will not grow weary. Stamina. Wisdom. Compassion. Divine appointments. Peace. Words. Mercy. Grace. All of these things…are my prayers for you. Most of all, that as he continues to break your hearts with what breaks his…that you will endure and press in to all that he has for you in that place…walking with him.

Blessings,

Michelle Gunnin

I Am Not the Savior of the World

IMG_9778I am not the savior of the world. I know you are shocked by this statement. I am currently waiting for the news crews to show up on my lawn with their trucks and cameras. “Michelle Gunnin has just made the startling announcement that she is not the savior of the world. Whatever will we do now? How will the world survive such momentous news?” I know you will be undone by this radical thought, but I couldn’t keep from you any longer. After years of trying, I have given up on the idea that it is my job to save the world.

Nor is it my job to save my children, or my husband, or my friends, or my students, or my co-workers, or my neighbors. I can see that you are squirming a bit with that last part. It’s probably because you have been taught that it is indeed our job as Christians to save the world. Maybe not the WHOLE world…but surely our little corner of it. I can invite my neighbors over and tell them the good news. I can steer the conversation with my waitress and share with her, right? Isn’t that what being a good Christian means…inserting Jesus into every conversation? Making sure we take our kids to church every time the doors are open? Reminding our spouses repeatedly that they are the leaders of our families, so they will lead like we…I mean God… wants them to? Isn’t that it? We have staked our lives on this idea. Isn’t that what we are to be all about?

jesus eyesMy answer is no. That is a messiah complex. That is the idea that it is up to me to save them all…that my beliefs and spirituality are superior to anyone else’s because I have the direct line to God and I know exactly how to interpret every scripture. Therefore, if you do not see things my way you are in need of saving.   The problem is that that kind of arrogance isn’t very inviting. The superiority mindset puts people off. (Ask the Pharisees about that.) It turns folks into projects rather than people. And in reality, if you look at the life of Jesus, he didn’t have a messiah complex…even though he actually WAS the messiah. He was pretty radical the way he loved people without condition. His followers kept trying to put him in a box, and he kept jumping out of it. Dine with tax collectors and prostitutes? Sure. Heal people on the Sabbath? Yep. Love people of all tribes and nations? Yes. Rescue anyone who asked? Yesiree.

You can see the minds of his followers being blown at every step and the wrestling with what they had always known vs. seeing what was now in front of them. The more I get to know him, the more I am like that. Thinking to myself, “You say to love everyone…but do you really mean EVERYONE? I mean that is not how it is done Lord. Don’t you know that?” And then there come other questions from his followers… but Lord, when will you take over the government? Who of us will sit at your right hand and left hand when you do? The fact is they had no clue. Even until the end, they thought they knew what was happening and when he laid himself down for them, they were totally confused because it didn’t fit their picture or expectations. They scattered because they thought he had abandoned them and they were scared. He brought his kingdom in the opposite way than they thought… through brokenness and death. They had no frame of reference for that.

woman with jarThe Pharisees also had their own views. They wanted him to follow the religious laws and they tried so very hard to pin him down. But that was like trying to pin down the wind. I have been both a Pharisee and a follower. I have wanted him to do things by the rules and to elevate me as a rule-keeper…until I broke the rules, and then I was so very grateful that he had abolished them. After my breaking, I was grateful just to be included as a follower. It amazes me still. I have watched him love people, but I have hesitated to do so myself. I have done what I thought he was doing; only to find myself confused when he showed me my true motives were nowhere close to love. Honestly, it is like trying to catch the wind to follow him.

MinnieI think we are so goal oriented in our culture that we do not see him sometimes because our goals are so large. We want to stop sex trafficking, or solve the homeless problem, or find every orphan a home. These are all worthy issues that need to be addressed and eradicated. They are all battles worth fighting. But they are all God-sized problems. What I mean by that is that in our human effort they cannot be eliminated. When one orphan is adopted, 5 more are made by war, or disease. When one girl is rescued from the streets, another one takes her place. When I was in Thailand I realized this and I was overwhelmed by the hopelessness of the situation. “Oh God, what can I even do that would make a difference? Why even try…the problem is too big for me to do anything about.” And in that moment he spoke to me… “Yes! You are finally getting it!   It IS too big for you…but not for me. That is why it is not your job to fix it. It is your job to love where you are. Look around you. Love them. Care about them. Show them my heart.”

That is such a different way of thinking that it blows my mind. But then he is always blowing my mind. It is why I love him so…he never leaves me where I am. If I listen he is constantly showing me his heart and how radically different it is to human ways. Discerning the difference between my heart and his shouldn’t be so hard, because they are worlds apart. Yet, with my tiny viewpoint, and my tiny mindset I think I know him…only to find that he is the opposite of me. I cannot even see my own heart without him. And when he shows me in his gentle way, I am flabbergasted at the smallness of it. My comfort zone is a minuscule place. I am sure he doesn’t have to take everyone to Thailand to see the brokenness of the world, but he did me. I am sure others can look around them and see heartache is alive and well in America, but for me it took going elsewhere to realize that no politician has the answers. No non-profit can fix the issues. No religious organization, church or otherwise, can pray or meditate away the darkness that is in our world. Only God can do the work. And he will do it his way, in his time, with his heart.

1495537_2268526037983_2137402497_nThe great thing about this revelation is that it sets me free. From the feeling that it is up to me. From the idea that without my involvement everything will be lost. From the thought, that if I do not witness to someone that their eternity is on my head. He never said that. NEVER. My life’s goal is not preach, or get people to church. It is to love them. Love will draw them to him. I am not the savior, I am the vehicle for his love to be transported into the places he leads me…and only because he graciously extended that kind of love to me. Everywhere I am is a place where I can love. Will I do it well? Not always. Will I be the one to draw them in? I hope not. Only he can do that. What a relief it is that I am not the savior of the world.

Scattering Seed

IMG_9778On the World Race when squads leave one country to go to the next, Racer blogs begin to talk about the goodbyes. The struggle to release those they have bonded with is difficult. To open your heart and connect, only to have to walk away seems harsh and too hard. The temptation to protect your heart the next time is nearly universal. It would be easier to practice pain avoidance, harden yourself, and hold back. Many blogs talk about tears shed when last hugs were given by orphans or ministry hosts who have become like family. It is often stated that a part of their heart stays in each country as they work their way around the world, and that home can no longer be one place, but many. It is as if their hearts are being broken into pieces and scattered.

This past year, I have often thought of Anastasia Sloan and her family. (I wrote a blog that included some of her story here… https://michellesmosaic.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/full-circle/.) She was killed in a car accident just weeks before launching to go on the World Race. It occurred to me today that her life provided a visual picture of a spiritual journey that happens in the hearts of Racers everywhere. At the request of her family, her ashes were transported with her squad. These Racers stood in each of the 11 countries and scattered her ashes, leaving a part of her to remain in-country, just as they each left a part of their hearts there. They were bonded through their good-byes.

The scattering of hearts (or ashes) is much deeper than what appears on the surface. It is more than tears of goodbye, though those are important to shed. Beyond the pain of grief, it is a planting…a sewing… of seeds. Seeds that will grow because of the testimony they represent, and the faithfulness of the farmer who scatters them. Seeds whose shells will crack open so that life can take root. Seeds that plunge into the soil and hold it so that it will not erode away. Seeds that dig down, because they know the secret of multiplication is a foundation of depth. The way to growth is through a seed falling to the ground.

My heart cannot fathom what the Sloan’s have been through. I am amazed by the strength they have carried this year. I am inspired by their desire to fulfill Anastasia’s wish to go to the nations. They exemplify what letting go means, and in their heartache they have showed us how to walk it out in a way that is much, much bigger than our idea of what it is to open our hands.

This video is short, but it speaks volumes. I have watched it several times to see the exuberance of Anastasia. Her passion for life illuminates her face, and her smile lights up my screen. I cry every time. Every. Time. I do not pretend to understand the whys of her tragic death. I have found why to be a question that has no answer. Such a beautiful soul, gone too soon. There are no explanations. Yet, she planted so much seed….in the hearts of everyone, everywhere who heard her story. Because of her powerful story, I feel as if I knew her even though we never met. God’s grace is scattering the seeds… which will reap a harvest of great magnitude…all because of Anastasia.

Baby in a Basket

IMG_9673I saw a post recently on Facebook that said, “Sometimes you just have to put your baby in a basket.” I wish I could remember who posted it, because along with the comment, was a baby picture at a photography studio somewhere of a baby all dressed up for a photo shoot…sitting in a basket. It is a pretty standard pose these days and has been for years. Probably because it is an easy pose with plenty of support for babies who cannot sit up on their own yet. You’ve seen these shots, haven’t you? A baby in a tub, or a basket full of flowers, or a wicker basket with a stuffed animal. People post them on Facebook and they are some of the cutest poses, as if this round- faced tyke just loves sitting in a basket. These pictures make it seem like someone walking down the road could easily happen upon a field full of cherubs all smiling adorable smiles from woven containers of all shapes and sizes. The thing is…this post caught me completely by surprise. It took my breath away; because I recognized that picture…I have four of them…one with each of my little children, sitting in a basket. (Which I spent hours today trying to find to post with this blog to no avail. The photos here are from the internet.) But more so than the picture, the meaning is what caused me to gasp. “Sometimes you just have to put your baby in a basket.” When I read that statement I SAW the truth of it and it pierced my heart.

baby-basket2What desperation must Moses’s mom have felt? How dire were her circumstances that she would think putting her baby in a basket and putting the basket in the river was her best option? My guess is that she had tried everything within her power to be able to keep her baby hidden from those who sought to take his life. I can picture her shushing him in the quiet of the night so his cries would not be heard. I can envision her sneaking around to him periodically throughout the day to check on him. Always looking over her shoulder and straining her ears to hear every word on the streets. Knowing that each day she kept him he was in more danger than before. I can feel her worry that her son would be discovered and drowned in the river. Her heart beating faster as Egyptians passed her…the feeling that everyone was onto her secret and watching her every move. The agonizing decision she faced as she tossed and turned on sleepless nights…keep her son and wait for his certain death at the hands of the enemy…or give him up to the river and never know his fate. I feel her brain scrambling for another way…smuggle him out…but to whom? Run away with him…but to where? The question reverberating in her head over and over…How can I keep him? I feel her tear stained cheeks as she prayed for God to intervene and begged for mercy for her son.

baby in basketThen came the day the choice was made. The basket prepared. The slow and heavy steps to the shore. The unburdening of her arms, the ache of her soul as she laid him in the basket. Her throbbing breasts leaking milk for need of a baby. The longing last glance at him as she put on the lid. The pounding of her heart as she pushed the basket into the water. The tears that flowed and flowed and flowed as she turned and walked away. The desire to turn around and dive into the water to retrieve him. The resolve to ignore her heart’s cry and keep walking. The veil across her face to hide the shallow breaths and the streams rolling down her cheeks.

She made the only choice she could. Trust God. Something she had believed she was doing for years…until this difficult moment when she learned the meaning of total surrender when she pushed the basket with her child into the river. Where would he end up? Would he ever grow up? What would be his fate? Did she really trust that God had plans for him? Did she really believe that God could protect this innocent baby? It was her step into blind faith. It was her realization that he wasn’t hers any longer. He belonged to God. The answer came to her ringing question: How can I keep him? And it was,“Sometimes you just have to put your baby in a basket.” Of course, we know that the story has a glorious ending, but she didn’t know that when she watched the current carry him away. Moms never know.

basket_baby_1For all the moms walking their kids to kindergarten and moving them into dorm rooms. For all the moms watching them walking down the aisle and waving good-bye at airports. For all the moms who stumble away from prison visits and sit by hospital beds. For all the moms who transport possessions and transform apartments into homey living spaces. For all the moms who send them off to war and wait by the phone. For all the moms who wonder what will become of them? Will they be safe? What is in store for their future? I say…you can’t keep them. I know you want to…but sometimes, you just have to put your baby in a basket… and trust God.