Monday, June 30, 2014

Letting Go of the Trash

On our last full day in the Dominican Republic we parked our bus and ventured out into the blistering summer sun.  We made our way down a narrow foot path with small hovels on either side. 

There were women sitting on the ground pulling fabric scraps through a plastic matt – the final product would be a rug for them to sell in order to put food on their table.  A little naked baby sat in a bath tub next to his mother as she worked. 

We continued our journey until we came upon a large garbage dump.  The smell was . . . beyond explanation.  More hovels surrounded the garbage. 

Women and children had joined our group and we bowed our heads and prayed for the people who eked out a living here in this horrible place. 

It was more than this American born, middle class girl could take in.  I was numb.  How could people live day in and day out in a place like this? 

We turned to leave and I saw a tiny little girl walking barefoot in the trash.  My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I couldn’t hold  it together in any longer.  Tears poured down my face.  


Since returning home, the scenario of that little girl walking barefoot in the trash has been running over and over in my mind.  And as I thought on that vivid picture . . . 

I felt God say to me, “Kristi, you’re like that little girl wandering in the trash.” 
 “Long ago, I picked you up out of the garbage of your own making and called you My own but you continue to return to the trash looking for satisfaction and fulfillment instead of looking to me.  You pick through the rubbish of other people’s opinions and values hoping to find lasting love, acceptance and peace.”

Unlike that little girl, I have a choice. 
And. So. Do. You.

Psalm 113.5-7 says, "Who can be compared with the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high?  He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth.  He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump." 

If you’re a follower of Jesus, God has lifted you out of the garbage dump.  He set you free.  He calls you to sit at His banquet table feasting on food that gives life to your soul.
And yet, how easy it is to return to the garbage dump of what is comfortable and familiar.  We choose to believe that the next relationship will meet our need for love.  The next promotion will give us the value we are searching for and the next piece of clothing we purchase will give us the approval we hunger for.  We choose to eat the filth and desperation of the trash.
Psalm 40.2-3 says, "The Lord lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what He has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord."
That day we spent with the children of the trash has forever changed me. A song those beautiful children sang at the top of their lungs keeps playing over and over in my mind. 

 I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord 
-Darrell Evans

God wants to trade your sorrow for His joy, your shame for His forgiveness and your desperation for His all consuming LOVE. 

Will you let go of the trash you’ve been clinging to, and grab hold of the ABUNDANT LIFE He offers?


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Moments of Grace

My head was bowed, eyes closed as I listened to a prayer in a language I didn’t understand and felt a tiny hand sneak its way into mine.  My heart smiled . . . could this moment be more exquisite? 
It was our last full day on the Island, a day in a long line of days stuffed full with a thousand precious moments . . .

Moments of uproarious laughter as our team rode the bus from one destination to another.  Moments of amazement and wonder as we worshiped God with our Dominican brothers and sisters in Christ and it didn’t matter that we couldn’t understand the words.

Artistic moments as we painted animal characters on the walls in the children’s ward of CURE hospital.  Singing and laughing as we decorated and put a little bit of love into each one.  Unbelievable joy as we watched a little boy place his hand on each little drawing he could reach as he walked down the hallway.

Moments of sadness and joy all mixed up together as we visited a little girl’s family that CURE was helping.  The tiny great grandmother with no teeth who wrapped me in a hug and wouldn’t let go.  The immaculate little two room shack they lived in with wooden planks for storing kitchen items and an outside oven which consisted of two broken bricks that held a pot beans over an open fire.  Discovering that they would not have eaten that day if it weren’t for the groceries we brought them.  Picking up rocks and trash in their yard and making a huge fire pit for them to burn in the evening to keep the mosquitoes away.  A little Barbie doll stored carefully in its original box, taken out only infrequently to play with and then stowed carefully away in its original package.  Playing “Wonder Stick” with the neighborhood kids who just showed up as we worked. 

Blessed moments as we visited with a family in their simple home.  Shedding tears with the mother as she shared her story of helplessness and despair turned to hope.  Singing “How Great Thou Art” and listening to the words of Scripture read by our Dominican brother.
Humbling moments as we stood surrounded by moms and children in a trash dump.  Tiny hovels built around the smell and filth.  A little girl walking barefoot in the rubbish.  Breaking down as I thought of my beautiful home and contemplating about what it must be like to live in a place like this day in and day out never knowing whether you will have anything to eat.  Digging in the trash for food out of desperation.  A cry welling up deep in my soul as we got in our air conditioned bus to ride to our next destination. 

Moments of pure, unadulterated joy as we served the children of the trash with good food and loads of fun all afternoon.  Facing painting for hours on end and glimpsing the light of hope in their faces.   

There are so many other moments it would fill a book and I am forever changed by them.  I will treasure them in my heart and pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ as they serve and share the love of Christ with the lost and hurting of the Dominican Republic. 

God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.   Ephesians 2.8-10
Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Embracing the Gift

Back in December of 2011, I composed a blog post entitled, Dreams Deferred.

I wrote about a dream I've had for a long, long time that I’m still waiting to be fulfilled. 
However, I don’t have very much longer to wait . . . Bright and early Thursday morning I will be heading out on my first missions trip ever!  It’s been a long time coming and I’m holding my breath with great anticipation as I step into this new adventure with God!

A group of eleven of us are heading to the Dominican Republic to work with CURE Hospital.  It promises to be hot and muggy with the possibility of catching a mosquito born sickness, that's said to be quite nasty but even so . . .  

I. Can't. Wait!! 

I’m unsure of all that we will be doing down there but it really doesn’t matter, I’m open to wherever and however God leads. 

Did I mention . . . I. Can't. Wait!!!

My hope is that I will be able to bless all those I come in contact with but I know the truth of the matter is that I will be blessed way more by them than they by me.  

I would appreciate your prayers as I walk this journey of faith and lean into Him.  Why God is choosing to answer this dream now is a mystery to me but I’m embracing this gift and choosing to live fully in every moment He gives me. 
What are you WAITING for?  What dreams do you have, that you have yet to see come true?  Will you invite God into the waiting?  Remember! His ways are perfect. 

I will proclaim the name of the LORD; how glorious is our God!  He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect.  Everything He does is just and fair.  He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!  Deuteronomy 32.3-4

Monday, June 2, 2014

I’m reading a book this summer called Made to Crave by Lisa TerKeurst.  It’s a book filled with powerful truths that are changing the way I see myself and God. 
Recently, I read a statement in her book that grabbed my thinking and just wouldn’t let go.  She said, “Desperation brings degradation”.
I’ve always been critical of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who willing sold his birthright for a measly bowl of soup.  How could he do it?  His need was so insignificant and his desperation so great, it led him to do something he never dreamed he would do.  Seriously, what was he thinking? 
But then it hit me – I’m Esau!  No I haven’t sold my birthright for a bowl of soup – I don’t even have a birthright but every day when I allow myself to give in to my cravings, when I follow my hidden desires  Satan wins.   I’ve just traded a little piece of me for a New York minute of satisfaction.  I’ve opened the door to the voracious monster who craves more and more and is never truly satisfied.
But what happens if I turn my desperation towards God?  If I’m desperate for Him?

What if I were to crave God, like I crave a decadent dessert?  What if I were to long for Him, like I long to see my son who’s just returned from Afghanistan?  What if I were to hunger for God, like I desire a long talk over a good cup of coffee with my sister who lives far away?
Desperate for God is the only kind of desperation that doesn’t lead to degradation.  Desperation for God quells the raging monster of temporary satisfaction.  Desperation for God gives hope instead of stripping it away.  Desperation for God brings freedom instead of binding us to our never ending quest for gratification.
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the living God.  When can I go and stand before him?  Psalm 42.1-2
Lord, teach me to crave you more than anything else, to quit choosing temporary satisfaction over You.  May I be desperate only for You . . . hunger for only You . . . seek only You.  Amen.