Saturday, January 12, 2013

My God stoops

So, I have been reading this book by one of my favorite authors Max Lucado. The name of the book is Grace. And the second chapter, seems to be one I keep going back to again and again. It is one that has resounded in my mind. It is one that has kept me awake at night, laying in bed, contemplating its words. It is about a God who stoops. It is too good, and too changing not to give some experts from that chapter.
"The voices yanked her out of bed. 'get up, you harlet.' 'What kind of woman do you think youa re?' Preists slammed open the bedroom door, threw back the window curtains, and pulled off the covers. Before she felt the warmth of the morning sun, she felt the hear of their scorn. "Shame on you." "Pathetic." "Disgusting." She scarecly had time to cover her body before they marched her through the narrow streets. Dogs yelped. Roosters ran. Women leaned out their windows. Mothers snatched children off the path. Merchants peered out the doors of their shops. Jerusalem became a jury and rendered its verdict with glares and crossed arms.
And as if the bedroom raid and parade of shame were inadequete, the men thrust her into the middle of a morning bible class.
"Early the next morning Jesus was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a women they had caught in the act of adultry. They put her in the front of the crowd. "Teacher," they said to Jesus "this women was caught in the very act of adultry. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?" John 8:2-5 NLT
Stunned student stood on one side of her. Pious plantiffs on the other. They had their questions and convictions; she had her dangling negligee and smeared lipstick. "This women was caught in the very act of adultry," her accusers crowed. Caught in the very act. In the moment. In the arms. In the passion. Caught in the very act by the Jerusalem council on Decency and Conduct. "The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?"
The women had no exit. Deny the accusations? She had been caught. Pleade for mercy? From whom? From God? His spokesmen were squeezing stones and snarling their lips. No one would speak for her. But someone would stoop for her.
Jesus "stooped down and wrote in the dust." (v6 NLT) We would expect him to stand up, step forward, or even ascent a stair and speak. But instead he leaned over. He descended lower than anyone else- beneith the preists, the people, even beneith the woman. The accusars looked down on her. To see Jesus, they had to look down even farther.
He's prone to stoop. He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the garden. He stooped before the Roman whipping post. Stooped to carry the cross. Grace is a God who stoops. Here he stooped to write in the dust.
Remember the first occasion his fingers touched dirt? He scooped soil and formed Adam. As he touched the sun-baked soil beside the women, Jesus may have been reliving the creation moment, reminding himself from whence we came. Earthly humans are prone to do earthly things. Maybe esus wrote in the soil for his own benefit.
Or for hers? To divert gaping eyes from the scantily clad, just-caught women who stood in the center of the circle?
The posse grew impatient with the silent stooping Jesus, "They kept demanding an answer so he stood up." (v7 NLT)
He lifted himself erect until his shoulders were straight and his head was high. He stood, not to preach, for his words would be frew. Not for long, for he would soon stoop again. Not to instruct his followers; he would address them. He stood on behalf of the woman. He placed himself between her and the lynch mob and said "All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust." (V 7-8 NLT)
Name callers shut their mouths. Rocks fell to the ground. Jesus resumed his scribbling. "When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman." (v 9 NLT)
Jesus wasn't finished. He stood one final time and asked the woman. "Where are your accusers?" (v10 NLT)
My, my, my. What a question- not just for her but for us. Voicses of condemnation awaken us as well.
"You aren't good enough."
"You'll never improve."
"You failed - again."
The voices in our world.
God stooped. Low enough to sleep in a manager, work in a carpentry shop, sleep in a fishing boat. Low enough to run shoulders with crooks and lepers. Low enough to be spat upon, slapped, nailed, and speared. Low. Low enough to be buried.
And then he stood. Up from the slab of death. Upright in Josephs tomb and right in Satans face. Tall. High. He stood up for the women and silenced her accusers, and he does the same for you.
He "is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us." (Rom. 8:34 MSG) Let this sink in for a moment. In the presence of God, in defiance of Satan, Jesus Christ rises to your defense. He takes on the role of a preist. "Since we have a great preist over God's house, let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty concscience." (Heb. 10:21-22 NCV)
A clean concscience. A clean record. A clean heart. Free from accusation. Free from condemnation. Not just for our past mistakes but also for our future ones. "Since he will live forever, he will always be there to remind God that he has paid for our sings with his blood." (Hebrews 7:25 TLB) Christ offers unending interession on our behalf.
Behold the fruit of grace: saved by God, raised by God, seated with God. Gifted, equopped, and commissioned. Farewell, earthly condemnations: stupid. Unproductive. Slow learner. Fast talker. Quitter. Cheapskate. No longer. You are who he says you are: Spiritually alive. Heavenly positioned. Connected to God. A billboard of mercy. An honored child. This is the "aggressive forgiveness we call grace." (Rom. 5:20 MSG)
The accusation of Satan sputter and fal like a deflated balloon. Then why, pray tell, do we still hear them? Why so we, as Christians, still feel guilty? Not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doeses of guilt to awake us to sin. We know guilt is God-given when it causes "Indignation...alarm...longing...concern... readiness to see justice done." (2 Cor 7:11 NIV) God guilt brings enought regret to change us. Satans guilt on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Dont let him lock his shackles on you.
Wasn't this the message of Jesus to the woman?
"Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" "No,Lord," she said. And Jesus said "Neither do I. Go and sin no more." (John 8:10-11 NLT)
Within a few moments the courtyard was empty. Jesus, the woman, her critics- they all left. But lets linger. Look at the rocks on the ground abandoned and unused. And look at the scribbling in the dust. Its the only sermon Jesus ever wrote. Even though we don't know the words, I'm wondering if they read like this:
"Grace happened here."
-Grace, By: Max Lucado
I sure hope Max Lucado does not mind that I took pretty much his entire chapter. And this book is a treasure chest, and I so recommend everyone read it. But that image has stayed burned in my memory. A God who stoops.
Maybe I have lingered on this, because I have stood before, rock held tightly in my fist. I have accused. Which we all have. And I have been the women, and so preoccupied with my accusers, to stop and look down, to see Jesus stooping down for me. Stooping down and writing grace in the dust of the ground.
I have ALWAYS hated when people call me religious. I grew up Catholic and I am not going to mock that faith. But I have learned that religion is mans attempt to get to God by good works and rituals. And salvation is Gods attempt to restore a relationship with man. It is God stooping. None of us can be good enough. None of us are sin-free, everyday.
But as I contemplate this chapter, and this story. I fall more and more in love with Jesus. I have long believed no one EVER came to God because they lost an arguement or they felt judged and condemned. But when people see God, who he really is. His impassioned love for us. His willingness to stoop down to us, below us. When they see a God who writes in the dirt, washes feet, and loves with a love that is unstopable. Things change. Lives change. From the inside out.
And I have had my life changed and flipped upside down by a God, who stooped down, and I realized his love for me. That is what is going to change people, LOVE.
Thats the kind of God I serve. A God who stoops. Who loves relentlessly. One who died to have a relationship with me. A God who offers the free gift of salvation. (Because lets be honest, who of us can work our way into heaven?) That is my God.

Lots of love from Rwanda,

Friday, January 11, 2013

A little reminiscing

I have a million things to blog about! The house is a constant buzz of activity lately, and life has been going at warp speed, with having school started on MONDAY! You can read more about that at HERE. If you don't know, you should know, you can sponsor one of the sweet kids at Noel orphanage to go to boarding school!! This is HUGE. And there is a bunch of ways to get involved, including commiting to prayer!!

But instead of blogging about the cazillion things going on. . . . . In the busyness of life I have been missing my main mini man. And still in the buzz of so much activity, I have been missing him, and running in the baby room and spending a bit here and there with him. Love that little guy so much!

Moses when I met him, at 3 weeks old at the end of March.
Then again when I got to see him when I cam back in August.
Moses hitching a ride on my back in August.
Moses now and my pumpkin Alysse.

 Can you believe I have been here almost 6 months now?
Where in the world has the time gone?!!

Lots of love from Rwanda,

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Maybe it's not a question of "if"...

Orphans where never on my mind before the beginging of 2011. I would hear the random story, see the commercials asking me to sponsor a child in some foreign country. I would be moved, but never moved enough to action. Honestly I never thought I could do anything of any signifigance for them. I would ask all the questions I am sure so many of you ask. "How do I know my money is really going to them?" "How do I trust this orginization?" "Will it really make a difference?"

I used all these questions as excuses not to get involved. I never figured it was my problem. It was not part of my everyday life, and surely someone else was doing something. It was not in front of me, and it did not effect my life. I was just trying to achieve more of the American dream. I was serving in my church, I was serving my community as much as I could. A missions trip always perked my ears up, but I never thought it was possible for me to go anywhere. How? Where? HOW!?

That is till a "random" thought crossed my mind one day that changed my entire life. I have always had a passion for children. I was always involved in Sunday School, AWANA, nursery, childrens church, and worked as a full time nanny. I always said to put me in a room full of toddlers and I was happy, but I would be uncomfortable teaching adults or teens.

One day I was watching Grace and Chase, who are the first two children I full time nannied and adored. Chasing them through the house with loud foot steps, hands outstrached, them knowing I would tickle them, as they ran and giggled. And randomly I thought "I would love to do this for orphans." In a instant the thought of children who do not get rocked to sleep, chased to be tickled, tucked in bed, or get that one on one attention came to the forefront of my mind, and a desire I did not know that lay dorment in me, arose that I would love to give that to them.

I shook the thought off, and got back to the business of tickeling at hand. The next day I sat upstairs rocking Grace in her rocker, singing songs, as she flutter her eyes off the sleep. And again the thought took over me. "I would love to do this for orphans." And this time after I layed grace down in her crib, and went to clean up from lunch, I thought more and more on the idea. I did not share this thought with people, because I did not think much could come of it, or would come of it. I prayed for the orphans in the world that day as I went about getting things cleaned up and organized from our busy morning.

Needless to say the thoughts did not stop. I remember one night waking up out of a sound sleep, and my first cognitive thought was "Some child right now, is being ushed into a crowded orphanage. They are scared, alone, have no idea what to expect. " And the thoughts started to interupt my everyday life. I could not shake them, and I could not stop thinking about orphans. Finally the desire grew so passionately and deeply inside of me. I called my pastor one day, and left a message with the receptionist to have him call me, as soon as he could. (Maybe it sounded a bit urgent, but my heart was now ablaze, and I was sure I needed someone to talk some sense into me. I was not trained, I was not ready, I had no idea what other cultures where like, I had no idea of the needs of international orphans. (Which in case your wondering, is the same as your children. Love, security, education, etc) It was just this thought that I kept lingering on, and it kept impassioning me more and more.

That afternoon, was one of the "those" afternoons. The grilled cheese burned on the stove, the smoke detectors had been going off, the dog was barking, and the kids where crying. I looked over and saw my cell phome lighting up, and "CMA" across the screen. And I just HAD to pick it up! In a single breath I said "I want to go to a third world country and work in a orphanage." In which my pastor kindly responded "Why dont we set up a meeting and talk about this." UGH! Didn't he know I needed him to talk some sense into me NOW, before this this thought interupted my life any longer. Didn't he know I needed him to tell me all the things I can do right here in America, and how this is really a silly idea, and I am not trained to do a single bit of it!

So one afternoon after bible study, a friend of mine played with Grace and Chase, while I met with my pastor. Much to my surprise, he listened to me rattle off all these thoughts, and all the reasons why it was ridiculous, but how I kept entertaining this "thought". And how this thought had now seemed to take on a passion all it's own. Much to my surprise, I did not get any of the reactions I thought I would get. He encouraged me that he would pray about this, and for me to keep praying about this, and perhaps we could look into some options of a short term mission trip.

Then I started to actually research, watch movies, documentries, do endless google searches. And I knew what I wanted to do. I cant build a well, I cant do construction, my passion had always been children, and investing in them. I think we all knew as children when someone was merely tolerating us, and when people where investing in us. And I wanted to invest in them. And I really like to color, and dance silly, and there is no other place I can really do that, but when I am working with kids. I guess I am just a child at heart. So I typed into google "Visit Orphans." and THIS popped up. WHAT?! This is exactly what I wanted to do!!

So, after talking to my pastor again, I signed up for a trip, and I started to fundraise. I was shocked to see my church family come alongeside me, and help me get there. I stepped out of my comfort zones and even stepped up to the pulpit a time or two to share where my heart was, and what I was going to go do. Public speaking is my arch nemisis. But the passion inside me was growing a whole lot bigger than that fear.

So in August 2011, I found myself with 20 strangers, on Ethiopian Airlines headed to Rwanda and Ethiopia. And I am NOT one for strangers. I am not one who looks at strangers as potential friends. I like the company of people I know and feel comfortable around. I take time to "warm up" to people. And here I was going to another continent with a bunch of people I just met as we stepped on the plane! EEeeeeek! SCARY! Still the passion I had growing in my heart was a whole lot bigger than the fear was.

Little did I know then, that so many of those then strangers, are now some of my dearest and most coveted friends. Experiencing something like this with a bunch of people, really binds you together, and friendships run deep after that. My friend Jenn from home later told me that the day I was on the plane going to Rwanda and Ethiopia, that Sunday, she said to my pastor "You know we lost her. She is a goner." And he said "Yeah, I know."

They were right. I had looked up so much, watched video's, googled visiting orphans on youtube and teared up everytime I watched video's of other peoples experiences. A missionary from my area was at my church the Sunday before I left. And he came up to me and shared some wisdom. Some wisdom I was not expecting. As friends of mine where sincerely asking me how my heart would be after this experience. His advice was rather different. "Tina, let your heart break. You cannot do this without a broken heart." As others wanted to make sure my heart would come back in tact. He was encouraging me to let it break and shatter. And it made sense to me, on a level I did not understand then. But later this statement came to mean more and more to me.

And the experience changed me. All of a sudden these kids had names and faces. I had laughed with them, played games with them, held them. All of a sudden it all indeed did change. It was not some far off idea. It was not some weird random thought. It was not a image on the televesion screen. It was kids. Real kids. And they needed what every child needs. They needed love, they needed a education, they need nutritious meals, they need security, they needed everything your child, or neice, cousin, or child you babysit needs. They needed to be invested in. They needed a chance.

I came back and hung up pictures of the kids I had met and fell in love with all over my house. I shared stories with friends about my trip and showed them pictures of kids I had fallen in love with. I prayed with a vengance, like I had never prayed for anyone before in my life.

I ended up going back to Rwanda at the end of March and beginning of April. This flame and desire had then engulfed me. I had to come back, and really come back. I wanted to stay. I wanted to live it with them. I wanted to live it alongeside them. I wanted to invest in them. So I did the next logical step. I sold everything I had, and I moved to Rwanda.

Now that I am here, I will go back to the beginning of this post. I did not think there was anything I could do. And since I have come here, I have been so surprised at people. I have been surprised at how people have loved these kids who have never met them. I have also been surprised how many people have "entertained that thought" as well. But never took a single step toward it. Or people who have said "I think maybe God wants me to adopt." or "I feel compelled to sponsor, but I do not know if that is what God is calling me to do." And maybe you are one of those people. You feel compelled to go. You feel compelled to give. But you struggle with the thought. You wonder if God is really calling you to adopt, to go, to give, to invest.

I do not think it is a question of if. There are MILLIONS of orphans in this world. And just like the children in your home, your nieghborhood, they are children. They need love and to be invested in. There are children all over this world, right in your neighborhood, who need you. They are kids, and they need someone to advocate for them, give security, give love, and invest in their lives. So is God calling us to the children who have no parents to do this for them, for us to step up, and step in? Yes! It is not a question of "if" God is calling you to love the orphan. Maybe its a question of which venue?

And if God is starting to break your heart. One day I realized, love flows more freely from a broken vessel. If you where to but some water in a vessel that is not broken, intact, and guarded. It will just sit there. Break that vessel and that water is going to flow so freely and unihibited.

Its not a easy life here, and its not a easy life there. And I do not do this perfectly at all. I make mistakes all the time. The staying has been changing me and molding me in ways I never knew. The kids have taught me more about God and love than I could ever tell them about God and love. But if you are wondering if you should care for the orphans. Is that really a question? God will bless it no matter what you do for them. It is a mandate for us to do so. We are to love them as our own, we are to equipt them, and give them a fighting chance. We are to perhaps put all the chips in, and put it all on the line, and see God in ways we never dreamed. Maybe we are too put ourselves completely on the line, and see God do what God does best.

For me, that was in the coming and staying. But for you maybe that is in sponsoring, adopting, going, fostering, or commiting to prayer like never before.

"I said "Somebody should do something about that." Then I realized I am somebody." -Lily Tomlin

Lots of love from Rwanda,