How Haiti Has Changed Me

    A missionary once told me, “You aren’t going to change Haiti, in fact; Haiti will change you.”  He was so right because Haiti has changed me.  Each day of our stay in Haiti, I’ve changed in some way.     Once I get back to the states and process all that I’ve seen, I plan to write a longer post about our stay in Haiti.  Right now, I am witnessing hunger, poverty, homelessness, godlessness, which leaves me paralyzed for words.  At best, I can look over the last few days and chronicle how Haiti has changed me.

Haiti needs the Rescuer not to be rescued.

I will always distinguish between a want and a need.  I’ve seen the real need here, and I am aware of my over abundance.

I will suggest that more friends plan their next family vacation to a third world country, just once, rather than to Disney. 

Visit a Third World orphanage.  I can barely find the words to convey the helplessness I feel after spending a week at an orphanage.  The girls will steal your heart without trying…and you won’t want to take your heart back because you know how desperately they need it.  So,  I am thinking about leaving a piece of it here.

orphanage

After several sessions of crying for them back at my hotel room, I realized the need to equip them with the important aspects for survival: the Gospel and basic life skills.  Those are two life altering things I can actually offer them. 

I promise not to get back home to the states and get too comfortable in my American lifestyle that I forget those beautiful ebony eyes and charcoal hands.

It was good to be the minority.

Electricity, running water, drinking water, employment, indoor plumbing, and food are gifts, trust me. 

Missionaries deserve every one of those boxes of goodies sent to them from the states. 

I’ve learned that my children are color blind; they see skin as the color of water — clear.

sohpie and friends

In Haiti, never eat in front of someone, unless you are willing to share your food.

Saying goodbye to fifty five orphan girls (one little girl in particular who began to call me “mama”) is heart wrenching because every little girl wants and needs a mama.

Tainia

After visiting a second, very rural orphanage, and observing the living conditions of these children and then learning that the orphanage is a step up from their original plight makes me determined to return to these children. If I can’t do anything else, the children and I can hold hands and for those brief moments of hand holding the world might seem a little better for them.

holding hands

I’ve watched children retrieve out of the garbage what I’ve thrown away….and they think they’ve found a treasure.

Thank you Haiti, for changing me.

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Grace For the Prodigal, Hope For The Parent(s) Who Await Her Return

A spiritually wayward child, it’s become the cancer of the Christian community.  To determine the cause of this spiritual disease we leave to the experts, but my words are to offer hope to the parent who waits night and day for her child to reconcile with God.  The treatment for the disease (restoration with God) is the easy part; it’s the waiting part that’s difficult—waiting for the wayward to swallow the pill of repentance.

The stark realization of this spiritual malignancy came not long ago during a small prayer gathering.  As we prayed; one parent after another unveiled the hidden heartache of a child who went spiritual MIA.  Here of late, a quick scan in most North American sanctuaries reveals the absence of young adults who once occupied a pew.  Those young adults disappeared into spiritual oblivion.  The scary news for parents is this spiritual epidemic knows no boundaries; it strikes its blow on kids raised in the church, kids of church leaders, kids of all denominations, kids raised in youth group, not raised in youth group, kids who attended Christian school, kids who were homeschooled, and on and on.  Every parent silently prays that when the spiritual apron strings are cut, their young adult will choose the path of righteousness and not ruin.

bible

The good news is that the prodigal is all part of the love story between us and Jesus. There is glory in the seeming ruin.  Parents of prodigals need to be reminded that there is hope.  Prodigals are his sheep who strayed from the fold and he is their shepherd.

Remember This: God is Still Wrapping Your Gift

Your prodigal is still that same gift to you from God; she’s still the very one that took your breath the moment she entered this world and within a nanosecond you thought your heart would burst open because of the fullness of love you had for this new bundle in your arms.  She’s no longer the wide-eyed girl in pigtails who squealed with delight when you came home from work.  But she’s still a gift, a sovereign work in progress. God is still assembling the gift. We tend to forget that gifts don’t always come wrapped in neat packages.  Take the gift of Christ, for example, the King of kings arrived swaddled in rags and placed in a manure-stained livestock trough.  Oftentimes, the best gifts arrive in the messiest, unassuming wrapping.  Often, especially in our consumptive culture, the value of a true gift isn’t appreciated right away. The wayward child, your gift form God, doesn’t see the necessity in her gift of the Rescuer —yet.  Help her see the value of the Gift through the simple ways you value her.

Throw off Condemnation

Don’t let the fact that you have a wayward child be the pink elephant in the room.  Sanctuaries are filled with people in your same circumstance who could use some support.  During the small prayer gathering, the wife of the leader of an international Christian organization boldly asked for prayer for her prodigal.  Then suddenly another mother openly shared of her sad journey in dealing with the lifestyle of her wayward.

So shake off the guilt and dump it at the cross.  There is a good chance that your parenting didn’t cause your child’s waywardness.  If it did, then own up to it, leave it at the cross, and share that parental wisdom with another heartsick parent of a wayward.  That prayer gathering was a holy time because we embraced the sadness knowing that help is on the way; the great Rescuer is doing his work in the wayward, just not on our timeline.

Show them Grace

As hard as it may be, show her grace when it seems she deserves reproach− yes, show grace to a daughter who runs from the Rescuer so that she can fill her life with momentary pleasures of this world and when she shows up on your steps greet her with an embrace rather than a scowl.  Why? simple, at some point, you lived the life of a spiritual runaway(didn’t we all?) and God pursued us with a passion, until we fell into his arms.

Destitution Leads to Restoration, so Wait and Watch the Love Story Unfold

A person can run from God, pushing Him out of sight (or so she thinks) for so long until God puts up a roadblock, an intervention.  At that point, she can’t outrun God.  Pastor, author, and prodigal, Tullian Tchividjian points out, “it’s futile to try. It’s impossible to outpace his pursuing affection…He’s always in the position of authority and control, whether we realize it or not.”  If you forgot just how relentlessly God pursues his loved ones reread the book of Jonah.

Grab onto Gospel Fellowship (and Don’t Let Go)

The natural inclinations of parent(s) of a prodigal are to first worry, then withdraw and eventually drift into isolation.  Elyse M. Fitzpatrick asserts, “We’re called to be people in relationship because our God is a God in relationship. He is three persons in one…  Jesus had twelve disciples, but he also had three close friends and one best friend.”

Ask two or three of your friends to gather once a week or every other week for accountability, confession of sin, and prayer. Fitzpatrick calls it “gospelized fellowship.”  Christ-centered fellowship arms us with biblical truths.  It’s the biblical truths we rely on when the struggles in life leave us wanting to lock the door, draw the shades, and stay in bed.  Gospelized friendships point us back to the hope we have in Christ.  I intend to practice more of this.

 Gulp Down the Gospel (in Heaping Spoonfuls)

If you’ve lived the life of a Christian for any length of time, knowing that we ought to cling to God’s word is, well, so basic that it sounds trite.  As years pass, we, unfortunately, forget that we owe our life to the messy, shameful, scandalous crucifixion.  Every day I must remind myself “only a supremely powerful deity could turn the world upside down through a bleeding Messiah,” Fitzpatrick.  Tchividjian notes the “one expression of God’s amazing grace is that he pursues our rescue even though we cannot do one thing for him.”  Not only does he pursue our rescue but rest in the assurance that he also pursues your wayward.

Read and Delight in the Testimonies of Other Prodigals Who Have Returned to the Fold

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/12-ways-to-love-your-wayward-child

http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/september-2007/let-them-come-home/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/10/14/earrings-and-one-way-love/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/09/24/failure-and-one-way-love/

Grace For the Prodigal, Hope For The Parent(s) Who Await Her Return

A spiritually wayward child, it’s become the cancer of the Christian community.  To determine the cause of this spiritual disease we leave to the experts, but my words are to offer hope to the parent who waits night and day for her child to reconcile with God.  The treatment for the disease (restoration with God) is the easy part; it’s the waiting part that’s difficult—waiting for the wayward to swallow the pill of repentance.

The stark realization of this spiritual malignancy came not long ago during a small prayer gathering.  As we prayed; one parent after another unveiled the hidden heartache of a child who went spiritual MIA.  Here of late, a quick scan in most North American sanctuaries reveals the absence of young adults who once occupied a pew.  Those young adults disappeared into spiritual oblivion.  The scary news for parents is this spiritual epidemic knows no boundaries; it strikes its blow on kids raised in the church, kids of church leaders, kids of all denominations, kids raised in youth group, not raised in youth group, kids who attended Christian school, kids who were homeschooled, and on and on.  Every parent silently prays that when the spiritual apron strings are cut, their young adult will choose the path of righteousness and not ruin.

bible

The good news is that the prodigal is all part of the love story between us and Jesus. There is glory in the seeming ruin.  Parents of prodigals need to be reminded that there is hope.  Prodigals are his sheep who strayed from the fold and he is their shepherd.

Remember This: God is Still Wrapping Your Gift

Your prodigal is still that same gift to you from God; she’s still the very one that took your breath the moment she entered this world and within a nanosecond you thought your heart would burst open because of the fullness of love you had for this new bundle in your arms.  She’s no longer the wide-eyed girl in pigtails who squealed with delight when you came home from work.  But she’s still a gift, a sovereign work in progress. God is still assembling the gift. We tend to forget that gifts don’t always come wrapped in neat packages.  Take the gift of Christ, for example, the King of kings arrived swaddled in rags and placed in a manure-stained livestock trough.  Oftentimes, the best gifts arrive in the messiest, unassuming wrapping.  Often, especially in our consumptive culture, the value of a true gift isn’t appreciated right away. The wayward child, your gift form God, doesn’t see the necessity in her gift of the Rescuer —yet.  Help her see the value of the Gift through the simple ways you value her.

Throw off Condemnation

Don’t let the fact that you have a wayward child be the pink elephant in the room.  Sanctuaries are filled with people in your same circumstance who could use some support.  During the small prayer gathering, the wife of the leader of an international Christian organization boldly asked for prayer for her prodigal.  Then suddenly another mother openly shared of her sad journey in dealing with the lifestyle of her wayward.

So shake off the guilt and dump it at the cross.  There is a good chance that your parenting didn’t cause your child’s waywardness.  If it did, then own up to it, leave it at the cross, and share that parental wisdom with another heartsick parent of a wayward.  That prayer gathering was a holy time because we embraced the sadness knowing that help is on the way; the great Rescuer is doing his work in the wayward, just not on our timeline.

Show them Grace

As hard as it may be, show her grace when it seems she deserves reproach− yes, show grace to a daughter who runs from the Rescuer so that she can fill her life with momentary pleasures of this world and when she shows up on your steps greet her with an embrace rather than a scowl.  Why? simple, at some point, you lived the life of a spiritual runaway(didn’t we all?) and God pursued us with a passion, until we fell into his arms.

Destitution Leads to Restoration, so Wait and Watch the Love Story Unfold

A person can run from God, pushing Him out of sight (or so she thinks) for so long until God puts up a roadblock, an intervention.  At that point, she can’t outrun God.  Pastor, author, and prodigal, Tullian Tchividjian points out, “it’s futile to try. It’s impossible to outpace his pursuing affection…He’s always in the position of authority and control, whether we realize it or not.”  If you forgot just how relentlessly God pursues his loved ones reread the book of Jonah.

Grab onto Gospel Fellowship (and Don’t Let Go)

The natural inclinations of parent(s) of a prodigal are to first worry, then withdraw and eventually drift into isolation.  Elyse M. Fitzpatrick asserts, “We’re called to be people in relationship because our God is a God in relationship. He is three persons in one…  Jesus had twelve disciples, but he also had three close friends and one best friend.”

Ask two or three of your friends to gather once a week or every other week for accountability, confession of sin, and prayer. Fitzpatrick calls it “gospelized fellowship.”  Christ-centered fellowship arms us with biblical truths.  It’s the biblical truths we rely on when the struggles in life leave us wanting to lock the door, draw the shades, and stay in bed.  Gospelized friendships point us back to the hope we have in Christ.  I intend to practice more of this.

 Gulp Down the Gospel (in Heaping Spoonfuls)

If you’ve lived the life of a Christian for any length of time, knowing that we ought to cling to God’s word is, well, so basic that it sounds trite.  As years pass, we, unfortunately, forget that we owe our life to the messy, shameful, scandalous crucifixion.  Every day I must remind myself “only a supremely powerful deity could turn the world upside down through a bleeding Messiah,” Fitzpatrick.  Tchividjian notes the “one expression of God’s amazing grace is that he pursues our rescue even though we cannot do one thing for him.”  Not only does he pursue our rescue but rest in the assurance that he also pursues your wayward.

Read and Delight in the Testimonies of Other Prodigals Who Have Returned to the Fold

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/12-ways-to-love-your-wayward-child

http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/september-2007/let-them-come-home/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/10/14/earrings-and-one-way-love/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/09/24/failure-and-one-way-love/

Be Ready with Your Answer

“No man is an island, entire of itself” muses the poet John Donne. The opening line from the poem reminds me of an island in the middle portion of the Chesapeake Bay then dangles southward from the Eastern Shore of Maryland into the waters of Virginia. Our farm is a three-hour car ride and then a fifty minute boat ride from that island. I don’t visit this Tidewater wonder as much as I would like. The busyness of life gets in the way, but my heart stretches across the Bay to the Tangier Sound and on the island where generations of my kinsfolk called home.

Twenty years ago, Hollywood found the peaceful little island. Scouts for Warner Brothers throttled their glitzy vessel into the quaint harbor and docked their glam boat next to weather-beaten work boats. Film industry executives perused the island with the intent of making it a location for a romantic movie starring box office legend, Paul Newman. A few months later, Newman charted a boat and arrived on Tangier to see the place for himself. By the time Newman and his crew from Tinseltown arrived on Tangier, island council members reviewed the movie script and voted “not to permit the filming of the movie unless parts of it were revised.”

Know what you stand for and when opposition or challenge knocks at your door, be ready with your answer.

Crisfield
Photo courtesy of Neil Kaye, Tangier Island History Museum and Virginia Taylor

Allowing the movie to be filmed on the island would be an enormous economic boost to the humble island which was in need of a few modern-day upgrades. The council believed that some of the scenes in the movie conflicted with the moral convictions of most of the islanders, therefore possibly undermining what they “have stood for all these years.”

“It’s a dry island” as the locals say. In other words, alcohol is prohibited on the island. It’s been that way for centuries. The issue isn’t about the fact that restaurants on the island don’t serve alcohol or that tourists are discouraged from exercising a “bring your own bottle” policy. The deeper issue is conviction and Hollywood or Paul Newman couldn’t change that.

The Mayor met Goliath on a dock instead of a Philistine camp. Goliath brought the promise of riches and the hope of fame, but the Mayor retorted that “based on our religious values, we felt the movie was in conflict with the way we live.”

Tangier Aerial

Photo by Sheridan Alexander

Newman expressed disappointment about the rejection of filming the movie on the island. To Newman, “it’s a sad thing that the movie isn’t taking place on Tangier; it’s the ideal location.”

I suppose on the night the council members voted on the movie, echoes of Psalms 49 resounded through the town hall, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.”

Hollywood, the culture giant that ever so stealthily tries to dominate our world, creeps into our lives and before we realize it changes us along the way. This time, though, the giant couldn’t tempt or tantalize the inhabitants of an island that has been long referred to as “no man’s land.”

What will you say when the Temptress or the Giant come to call? Be ready with your answer because it’s not a matter of if they find you; it’s a matter of when they find you.

Parents equip your children and yourself to be ready with the answer when faced with a circumstance that challenges or compromises convictions in turn for temporal comforts and desires of this world.

The islanders wrangled with the Hollywood decision together, not alone and not necessarily in agreement with one another. In the end, declining Hollywood’s offer sent the message that the people care more about preserving their moral integrity and maintaining a moral standard means more than seeing the name of where you live in the credits of a movie most of the islanders wouldn’t even pay to see.

Tangier Church

Photo by Aubrey Bodine

 

This world is not our home.

Don’t allow a Giant to chip away at your biblical standards or cause a compromise. Fortify your defense.

Teach and talk about the courage of some of the hallmarks of the faith like, like Joshua, who refused to cower when he spotted the giants just over the hill and Daniel who sternly refused the culinary choices on King Darius’ menu. Their faith superseded fear or ridicule.

Build an alliance with a friend who will strengthen you and stand firm on biblical truths. The friend may not necessarily share the same convictions as you, but the foundation and measure for truth is the same.

Rules (legalism) and Convictions are not the same, so don’t confuse the two.

Pray for the wisdom of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove, Paul Miller writes,  “Jesus calls us to be wary, yet confident in our heavenly Father. We are to combine a robust trust in the Good Shepherd with a vigilance about the presence of evil in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.”

It’s true no man is an island, no one needs to go at life alone. Making that stand sometimes requires the support of community, a prayer group, a trusted friend, a spouse. Before Jesus started his ministry, he grabbed twelve followers and they hit the gospel road together. Jesus showed his band of brothers that if they intended to keep the gospel growing they needed one another, and they needed to love one another.

Let’s face it, the likelihood of Hollywood knocking on our door is slim. The likelihood that Compromise will tap on our heart is undeniably high. Just ask Judas, member of Jesus’ inner circle, who cared more about his fortune than he did God.

When you hear the tap. tap, tap of Compromise on your heart, be ready with your answer.