Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Perfect Vision

Mom was on her way to the surgical center because sometimes check-ups turn out to be bad news. She had too much pressure behind her optic nerve, and that much pressure damages said nerve until, over time, the world narrows and is finally black.

This got me to thinking about life pressures that cripple our nerves to the point of obscuring our view.  And who would want to stop seeing God's grandeur in sights like this?

I'm sharing it today over at Laced With Grace, where I will be contributing regularly beginning in October. How exciting is that?!

Come see what I started to see over there?

Laced With Grace

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To America — To Africa: A Co-Post

Today my other half, the half that's in Kenya, is co-posting with me, and he doesn't even know it. He posted this update on Facebook last Thursday and I never even saw it. Bad Wife, bad wife! How could I have missed it when I've nearly velcro-ed the computer to my side day and night so as not to miss a single communique?  Anyway, here he is. 

To America — Mike in Africa, in his own words:
Last night (Thursday) we finished up the pastors and leaders conference in Thika with an attendance of over 1000 people! I was the last speaker of the night, and my voice was gone, but the Lord worked in a mighty way. When you preach the word here you have to "bring it" strong. Wesley Paul likes to say, "Africa will make a preacher out of you."

Before preaching at the pastors conference last night [pictured above], I spoke at the first day of the Saba Saba Festival. We had around 2500 people at the festival. This was a pretty good crowd for the first day (I've been told), and today the crowds will easily double. By Saturday we are expecting close to 25,000.

When I arrived in Saba Saba the churches there had gathered to march through the town in a parade to welcome all the people to the festival. This was the highlight of my day. As the churches were marching down the street, Wesley Paul, Tommy Hayes (another minister) and I joined the parade at the halfway point, and when the children saw our faces (which they had seen for months on posters and banners around the city) they surrounded us like we were famous movie stars!

We were overwhelmed as they would stare at us and smile as to say, "we have been waiting for you to arrive." I am hoping someone was taking pictures of this because it was so moving to march together with the church and with the children through the streets of Saba Saba shouting "Jesus" and singing in Cucuo (which is an African dialect). By the end of the night I was wasted, but there is nothing like being spent for Jesus.

My dress shoes that I brought have an orange tint to them from all the red clay that have gotten on them. Every night when I finish the day, I wipe them down and thank the Lord for shoes to wear ... and for the privilege of carrying the gospel in them. "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” - Romans 10:15

[Imagine picture of orange-earth-dust-covered dress shoes here; and forgive my husband -- he's not an experienced blogger so it doesn't occur to him to take pictures of dusty shoes for amazing blog posts from Africa.]


Meanwhile, back in America, I miss him so much.  The first time he left me to go on a ministry trip, I cried every day into the phone for his aching ears to know my misery.  I'm not so bad anymore, but I do still miss him, especially after we hit the six or seven day mark. Today makes nine!

It's become our tradition when he's out of the country on God's missions that I send him a love song.  It began on Facebook, but I've moved the tradition here. I fear I may show my age, but here goes nothing.

To Africa — Because a half a world is too far away, where my nights are your days. 
Follow God and the gospel in those dusty shoes all over the globe if you must, just let them lead you back home to me when you're through.  I'm anxiously awaiting.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Told Ya

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. He didn't want to do what God called him to do, and I don't blame him. He was to rail against his nation their longtime infidelity, God's righteous anger, and His pending judgment.  Judah would laugh at him, imprison him, and then deem him a traitor and seek to kill him, although Jeremiah didn't know it at the time. But God asked Jeremiah to do his bidding, then warned him that he would be a miserable failure, so Jeremiah was reluctant. His original plan of marrying the girl of his dreams and settling down among the ordinary Israelite masses sounded like a better option. Who could blame him? But God wanted him, and I can't, for the life of me, imagine what God would want with an ordinary, selfish, uninspiring guy like that.

So God had to convince him with some romantic notion about calling him before knitting him into his mother's womb. And let's face it, who's going to win an argument with God anyway? So Jeremiah ended up watching his countrymen dismiss his warnings for decades and saw every horrific thing God said would come to pass come to pass. He stood helplessly by when Assyria systematically overtook his country, in one wave after another, after another, until it was decimated.  He watched his friends and countrymen be marched out of Jerusalem into pagan lands, until he was one of the last left in a ruined city.

This is the point in the story when grudging, selfish Jeremiah should have felt vindicated because time proved his unpopular prophecies to be true after all. It is entirely reasonable to think Jeremiah might say, "I told ya so!" with great satisfaction.

But he didn't.

Instead, Jeremiah lamented. He didn't get mad. He didn't get even. He got sad. The reluctant prophet wept for love of God's people, because what happens when you listen intently to the voice of God is you begin to love what He loves. So the reluctant prophet became known as the weeping prophet, and instead of  saying "I told you so," Jeremiah spoke of hope, even though it was seventy long years away. He advised the captives in how to not only endure their captivity, but to thrive in seeming defeat.

Just as his cries of pending doom had seemed ludicrous at the time, so must have seemed his new claims. He talked about God's compassion being new every morning, about loving kindness that never ceases, and about embracing discipline because it will produce hope, all while iron chains scraping a gravel road toward captivity jingled in the background.

God chose selfish Jeremiah who wanted to be ordinary and turned him into a national hero with the heart of God. He heralded even more crazy stuff -- whole-heartedly this time. Stuff about covenant-keeping and God remembering promises. And this time a few must have finally heeded him because there was a remnant few that lasted those seventy years and returned to prove him right yet again.

None of this should be a surprise; God likes to redeem. Maybe He did it for Israel. Maybe it was for Jeremiah. Maybe, just maybe, it was for me, or even Himself. But after thirteen weeks of studying Jeremiah in Sunday School and finishing this morning with a peak at his lamentations, I now like to think it just might have been so God could pull me up onto his lap, cup my face in his nail-pierced palms, and say with a satisfying grin, "I told ya!"

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity...." ~Jeremiah

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Africa & America: Days 0, 1, and 2

For me it began during Sunday morning's sermon, which Mike preached after two restless nights fighting cold symptoms with a vengeance in preparation to go to Kenya.  Decongestants wire Mike.  Me, on the other hand? I'm wired by fear, which enters during the sermon without fanfare, but not unnoticed either.  In his sermon, Mike says, "No one knows their future. I'm supposed to go to Kenya, but I may die before I get there."

And that was it. He moved back into his sermon notes, and left my heart dangling from an imagined cliff.  I am no stranger to considering life without Mike.  He has almost left me for heaven on more than one occasion. I try to ignore it. Who wants to magnify the enemy or his tactics? Fear is not a welcomed guest.

We race home to the smell of spaghetti sauce in the crock pot. It's already 2:00 pm, his plane departs at 4:15, and we still have to have birthday cake because Reagan turns twelve while he's gone. There was no time for candles, a small sacrifice for the Kingdom from an American kid with her eye on Africa.

Adrian stays home under a mountain of AP History homework, leaving the girls and me to rush Mike to the airport like an ambulance to a hospital. Door to door his trip is 21 hours. The faint headache I awoke with that morning is growing and I know it will intensify until bedtime. At least I will sleep tonight; Mike and his cold will spend a third sleepless night in a plane somewhere between Detroit and Amsterdam.

The next morning, I rush two girls off to school, and Adrian and I find ourselves in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to take the driving test for his restricted driver's license.  He's nervous, and I'm in a hurry to get to my full day of work.  During my futile attempts to read in the lobby while he demonstrates his driving prowess with Mrs. Tough-As-Nails as an examiner, it hits me.  In our hurry yesterday, we didn't even pray.

We didn't pray before he left.

And the fear that walked in unannounced yesterday moved closer, wrapping its arm around my shoulders in a firm hug that made my spine crawl. Mike was somewhere between Amsterdam and Nairobi.

By 4 pm, I'm trying to shake fear's embrace nonchallantly because any other way would give fear its desired foothold, and because I still haven't heard from him. I want to know he's reached his destination and made contact with his party, because he traveled alone. I get home from work to a daughter that doesn't feel good and another daughter whose school schedule change has been botched.

I miss him already. I don't know how single moms do it. I dash off a prayer of gratitude for my own mom, among the single ones, who did this every day for my benefit.  Another flair prayer for friends who come to mind that mother single-handedly even now, and also a quick lifting of Mike for his safety, while I reach for the beeping thermometer in Reagan's mouth. How was I so together only 48 hours ago?

He calls and I hear his voice. The kids say hello, and I hear Wesley in the background, and I'm free from fear's grip. He'd finally arrived in need of a meal and a few hours of sleep before he teaches 800 pastors who have come for training. They had planned for 250. The feeding of the 5,000 comes to mind, and I smile knowing it will go just as well for a tired pastor with a heart after God and feet shod with the preparation of the gospel.

The next night, last night, finds me making several cold trips to the toilet with a sick stomach. Either nerves, sympathy traveler's diarrhea, or both, I'm too tired in the middle of the night to know or care. But I woke this morning feeling fine again, but challenged by my own words of fluttering faith. I think God just might be the reason life feels a little out of my control right now.

Who wants to keep scattered faith from germinating anyway? It can happen in America, too, while my family is separated by a hemisphere. I can't re-gather seeds that have been flung that far. It's okay if it's a little messy. The end result is still beautiful.

Linking this one with Imperfect Prose, because, boy, am I ever imperfect.

Related Posts:
How to Pack For Africa
Africa In My Kitchen
Scales and Coattails

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How to Pack For Africa

"I think I'm bringing only one pair of jeans," he says as he picks up the cumbersome suitcase to judge whether or not it exceeds fifty pounds with the inaccurate scale of his biceps.

I wonder what do you pack when you are going to Kenya, the horn of Africa, neighbor to the desperate Somalia that's been in the news. What can you possibly put in a suitcase that can make a difference in a place where famine is rampant, and HIV/AIDS is indiscriminate, there is corruption, and some children don't even have shoes between the soles of their feet and the dust of the Earth.

There's already been many vaccinations against yellow fever, typhoid and rabies. There's been prayer and tears, and new friendships with others who also pack and go.  There's a renewed friendship with Wesley, and a coming together as one to go ye, therefore, into all the world, and preach my gospel to every creature. There are plans and prayers and hope tucked in his suitcase, and how much do they weigh? For all I know, they lighten the load and give love wings to fly.

There've been things unpacked in preparation as well.  The bibles seem more like journals now because they are a record of his life.  Since the days of Mike's cancer, he has systematically worn out three with the living of eight years. Each testifies to how a life devoted is lived between its pages, its lines, and words.  This is what a bible looks like when a laid-down life intertwines with the Word.  It bursts the bindings and pages let loose.  It's always Revelation that escapes, the future hope that refuses to stay pinned down. It wants to flutter away, a note of good news that's been pollinated with devotion and looks for new ground in which to germinate.

Mike searches those pages and finds old outlines, sermon notes, and his documented life there.  He remembers hovering fragile at death's door.  He remembers clinging to hope when there was nothing else to cling to and energy for little else anyway. There are oily pages that soaked up the oil from anointed cloths that had hands touch it and prayers breathed over it from pastors too far away who couldn't come lay hands on Mike and pray for him. But their anointing oil touched his live in these pages anyway. Those oily pages whisper now, "Go, touch, be there, don't send a cloth substitute if you don't have to." 

This is what you pack in an American suitcase to bring to a third world country that is desperate and poor, sick and dying, in need of hope and good news. You pack your own story intertwined with His that is bursting at the seams to be told. You go and tell of being desperate and in need yourself, you walk as living proof that the sick and dying can live, and you deliver hope and good news just in the going.  God may not fit in a suitcase, but a testimony  and the gospel are all the better when delivered in one. The body of Christ squeezes into a suitcase because hope and love and salvation are transportable.


Related Posts:

Linking with Michelle because I took him to the airport on Sunday, and will miss him on Monday, Tuesday....12 days in all...

and Laura, because this will be a playdate with God if there ever was one.

~ ~ ~ ~
This post was featured in the HCB Community. Christian Blog Network

Sunday, August 14, 2011

There At the Cross

I don't know why it happened this morning while I was taking sermon notes — sorry, Mike.
But the words just started pouring forth, so I mopped them up with my pen and notebook,
the paper absorbing ink, finally:

He did not declare His innocence,
although He was.
He did not call them sinners,
though they were.
He called on the Father and Holy Spirit,
although He was our very answer.
He died at the hands of man,
although He is the hand of God.
He died, yet shall we live.

Have you been to the cross?

The cross, an instrument of execution and doom
become the axiom of our faith,
overcome every atrocity,
every injustice,
every wickedness,
every unfaithfulness and unforgiveness,
every vile and bitter thing.

We were lost to Him,
and He came to find us.
Of course we were there at the cross,
drawn there by our sin,
that which He became
in order us to redeem.
He drew us there for our sin
that He could draw us back to Him.

Draw me nearer, Lord.

He came to ruin at human hands,
yet we come to new life by His.
He is the paradox that pardons,
the Great I Am,
that dwells in earthly tent that i am.
He is unrelenting toward my unrighteousness.
He loves me though I'm laughable.
Forgives, and I find favor.
He's patient when I need peace.
He loves the lowly,
and is our rescue that will return.
He is
 all in all
and all I need.

Have you been to the cross?
Come to Christ. Enter in.
He is all you need.

Linking with Graceful Michelle and Emily.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wind, Waves, and Words

It has been silent here. I struggle to put words on a screen, but I've never done this as a chore, only of love and bobbing buoyant on overflow.  But lately, what once spilled over has become a trickle that needs a squeeze to produce, and still not one drop of ink on paper, no words, only quiet.

I am tired. Maybe it's the heat, maybe I'm word-weary, or maybe I'm just sick of all the me-me-me.

I started this blog when life was racing past me and I wanted to capture some of it, pin down time, and hold liquid life if just for a moment. But for some reason, I now need to open full throttle, feel my hair whip wild, and not resist the urge to close my eyes against the accosting wind. I'm suddenly okay with life cutting fast and rough through the chop.

What happens in the speed and the blur is something completely different than what happens when I pin the details down tight and tedious. The blur takes faith — eyes closed, arms outstretched to wet wind's embrace. Faith is more than not resisting. 

It thrills, but apparently it also renders me speechless. And right now, the sun's gild in my hair and butterflies in my stomach have my full and exuberant attention — pure and simple.

I'm sure I'll be back.  Though it is as futile and exhilarating as hugging wind with complete rapture, pinning down liquid life with words is another vanity  adventure I simply cannot resist.

I'm joining Dayle today for Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You Were There (All of Me)

Adrian's latest creation is now recorded and duly blogged for your listening enjoyment.

See that longing gaze from a boy to his guitar? He's definitely smitten, and I hope the relationship lasts a lifetime, to write and sing praise to his King.

You Were There (All of Me)
Adrian González

Untitled from Dawn Gonzalez on Vimeo.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wishes For My Misses

Rearing daughters is getting scarier by the day.  They are morphing without the protection and privacy of a cacoon shrouding the process.  Unlike the butterfly, the teenager's metamorphasis from child to woman is entirely on display, even more so when they're the pastor's kids—daughters no less. And these days with instant messaging, cell phones that text, and Facebook, the internet is another whole world that is a stage. So with the adolescent desire to be center-stage, I think I'm doomed.

But growing up can be messy business, so you can't fault a mom for wishing for a little privacy and a scrap of dignity. These years involve discovering so many things:  where they fit in socially, who they are, what notions they will embrace, what voices they will heed, whom they will emulate. I know there will be mistakes and mis-steps a-plenty.

It's enough to make a mom want to lock Rapunzel and her sister in a tower and wait for a few Prince Charmings who will deem them worth both the climbing effort and the wait for hair to grow long enough. It's also a built-in way to weed out the less-than-charming princes who were unconvinced that our daughters' virtue was worth their gallent effort. But alas, the wonder of fairy tales is indeed pixie dust. Not to mention that they won't understand this love until they are on the mom side, because, after all, even to me it seems a tad irrational.

Yet sometimes I do wish I could send them to their room until they were mature and level-headed, ready to take on the whole world with grace. But how is that really going to happen in their room, with only orange and green daisys and a Selena Gomez poster silently staring back at them?

How I wish they could skip the clumsy mistakes of these years. Skip right over the wondering if they're pretty, smart, cool, witty, worthy of another's affections. Skip being crushed by a comment, a look, a rejection.  How much angst will they spend on feeling they aren't good enough? (Enough for what?) That they measure up to whom, exactly? If only they could know who they are without these experiences, know it by faith rather than by trial ... and trial ... and error. 

And yet, I don't want to hold them back. I wish them to stretch and grow and become all God has for them. I want them to find their way, discover their world, their place in it, and walk fearless with God as their leader. I hope they know their dad and I are behind them to propel them forward by love.

True love.

This is the way towards the horizon and setting sun and happily ever after, with or without a Prince Charming. The way can be graceful if they know who they are, Whose they are, and who's behind them. It is possible to go far and go well.

Maybe I'm not doomed after all. Maybe my wishes for my misses just might serve them better than pixie dust after all.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Foreign Numbers Naturalized

I've been to Guatemala only once, but Guatemala has visited me so many times in the last six years that I can't keep count. We are old friends, now, me and that country that knows what time of day it is enough to politely greet me with buenas dias, buenas tardes, or buenas noches all day, every day. Numbers on a clock dictate the appropriate greetings, cycling through days and nights.

Other numbers dictate my praise, which grows and cycles into seasons and years.  We've watched God use a little to achieve a lot. We've seen small things grow into big ones.  We want the next six years to grow taller and stronger and bring God more glory, just like a sunflower seed that gets planted, grows high, blooms sunshine, and thrives golden royalty, with seeds at its center, holding the promise of future harvest in foreign soil.


498 ~ six years of ministry in Guatemala
499 ~ three US churches of different denominations supporting Misioñeros Sin Fronteras (Missionaries Without Borders)
501 ~ six churches with six pastors in six remote villages
502 ~ a children's home with over twenty-five children
503 ~ three full time staff members at the children's home
504 ~ two summer missionaries getting ready to come home to the US
505 ~ four full time missionaries getting ready to join our staff in Guatemala
506 ~ ten and a half acres of land, the future site of our Ciudad de Los Niños (City of Children)
507 ~ that the land is paid for in full and ready to begin construction
508 ~ just like we are as new creations in Christ (paid for and ready for construction)
509 ~ a God who blesses little until it is a lot

*                      *                       *

Would you like to travel along with two of our missionaries headed to Guatemala?  Pray for Amber and Andrew, who sold a business to become missionaries? They're documenting God's faithfulness in their adventure at A-Squared in Guatemala.

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