Micah 6:8

"...do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The lives of women

This is kind of an embarrassing subject, but I'm going to dive in and see how it goes. Yesterday I had my annual "women's health." exam. No woman I know looks forward to that appointment. It's uncomfortable and embarrassing, and I'm always relieved when it's over and I don't have to do it again for another year. But this year, for some reason, the whole experience was different. In fact, I'm not sure I will ever think about that visit quite the same way again.

Because of some recent difficulties in my life, I was extra nervous about this appointment, but the doctor who saw me put me at ease right away. She was kind and professional and took the time to answer my questions and let me be a human instead of just one patient in a long line of patients. She actually made me feel cared for, which is a pretty hard thing to do in the context of one of those dreadful appointments. Her kindness got me thinking about the African refugee women I know and about the women I will spend time with on our upcoming trip to Uganda and Kenya. I started thinking about the millions of women and girls around the world who have no access to any women's health care, let alone kind health care. I thought of the women I know who have have been victims of female circumcision and rape. Of the millions of women who have little say over their own bodies and how they get used, and no one to care for them with kindness and mercy. I thought of the young girls who are forced into sex early and develop fistulas (ruptures that lead to leaking bladders) from rape or childbirth that comes too young. Those girls who suffer twice because they are subsequently shunned from their communities because the way they smell.

I can't even imagine what it's like to walk around in the shoes (or no shoes) of those women around the world who suffer in silence. My few minutes of being uncomfortable and embarrassed each year in the doctor's office are really nothing. I am reminded again of the gap between rich and poor in our world. Access to decent, kind health care should be the right of all people, not just the elite. Next year I will remember my silent, suffering sisters when I call to make my appointment.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Scripture stuck in my head

Our Campus Pastor, Carter Moss, read this passage of scripture from 2 Corinthians 9 at church on Sunday and it has been stuck in my head ever since. I love this! Generosity to the poor is worship. It is evangelism. It is how we get close to Jesus.

This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back Again

In just eight weeks we will be getting on a plane to go back to Africa. It's starting to actually feel real now that we've chosen the students and I'm working on booking flights. Uganda will be a brand new experience and Kenya will be going back to old friends. I am so grateful to Jesus for the incredible opportunities I've had in my life to connect with the global Body of Christ and to see so many places in the world. I dreamed of traveling when I was young, but I'm not sure I ever really believed it would really be as possible as it has been.

It has been a hard week for me personally, with some unexpected loss, but thoughts of Africa are washing over me in a way that feels healing today. I am so grateful for this coming trip. I pray for the students who are going and for our team as a whole. I can't wait to meet Jesus in the streets of Kibera again.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reasons I'm Thankful Even Though Life is Hard Right Now

1. Jesus is constant and faithful even when I'm not.
2. My husband is the just the exact right person I need to support me and help me grow.
3. My family holds me up with love.
4. My church family is more important to me than I could have imagined they would be.
5. My refugee friends are a constant example of faith and perserverance.
6. My work is meaningful and significant.
7. My home is warm and safe and peaceful.
8. The body of Christ is bigger than just my church, and I feel part of that bigger body.
9. The coming of Spring magically uplifts my spirit.
10. Our trip to Africa is just around the corner.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunny Days

Despite the rainny, sleety day on Saturday, about 70 volunteers showed up at Bryan House and got almost everything on our list for the day accomplished. I was amazed! They even put up the playground and re-shingled the porch roof. The rain and sleet I was so afraid of last week didn't stop much of anything. Praise God!

On Sunday volunteers from Batavia United Methodist Church came and finished the things we didn't get to on Saturday. Not only that, but this amazing church has decided to make a long term commitment to supporting Bryan House! Rick and I will be speaking to their congregation this Sunday and they will be bringing back more volunteers in the afternoon. They are going to help us make one of our apartments handicapped accessible for a refugee man who has become paralyzed from a severe case of TB that attacked his spinal cord. I am so excited about this new partnership. It feels like the clouds have finally parted a little bit and I can see the sun again. Things feel more manageable just knowing that this church is behind us now. Yeah! I love seeing churches really being the CHURCH.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

There is a 60% chance of rain on Saturday. That is the day that we will have about 60 volunteers at Bryan House to help paint, clean, fence, landscape, put in a playground like the one in this picture, and more. So I find myself praying against the rain. I realize that if God answered everyone's prayers for no rain, we would have a serious drought. In fact praying against the rain is probably a very silly and naive thing to do. Never-the-less, I really, really hope it doesn't rain this weekend. Are you listening God? : )

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dr. King

Today the world is taking a moment to remember Dr. King. 40 years ago he was gunned down on the balcony of the Loraine Motel in Memphis. A lot of people are talking about him today. He's all over the radio and the television. In the last forty years he has somehow become fairly universally recognized as a hero and a prophet. But his death reminds us that he was not always so esteemed by the general public. Especially not the comfortable, white, middle and upper class conservatives. He was seen as a trouble maker. He was a threat to those for whom the status quo was working well.

If Dr. King was alive today, and if he was speaking out against the Iraq war the way he spoke against Vietnam. If he were standing up for poor people and demanding ongoing strides towards racial justice. If he was speaking out in such a "political" way today, I wonder how many of our churches would invite him to speak from their pulpits. I wonder how many would be willing to associate themselves with him. My guess is not many. All of us want to claim Dr. King as hero, but very few want to walk where he walked. We would rather "keep the peace" than trouble the waters. We have made Dr. King safe, just have we made Jesus safe. They are both easier to stomach that way. But it makes our celebrations of them both empty and hypocritical.

The world remembers Dr. King today as a great civic leader, but Christ-followers should remember him as Pastor to a generation. Pastor to us still. I long for a voice like Dr. King's to speak into me, into my neighborhood, my church, my nation. And I long to have the courage to listen and respond.

I think I hear God still speaking these words to his Church today:

Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.

But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Amos 5:23-24

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Joy of Simplicity

There is a deep longing in my soul right now for a return to simplicity. For time to enjoy the sunshine. For slower moments of peace. For time to play. For space to breath. For joy. For days that are less crammed together. For an end to chasing after the wind.

For more time to spend with the little guy in this picture, "Baby Rick." It seems his baby time has slipped away from us, as he will be four years old this May. I miss him more and more all the time. He is like pure sunshine. There is something magic about him. He is a great source of joy for me.

I don't think I was designed for the kind of life I'm leading right now. My body is rebeling against it with pains that won't go away. The stress is making my stomach uneasy. I wake up every morning longing for something to change, longing for freedom, longing for someone to rescue me from the unending cycle of the "To Do" list. Crossing something off feels good for a moment, but then I look down and see that it has just continued to grow and grow. I wonder if anything I am doing is really making a difference anyway. In the end, will all my running around have accomplished anything real? Anything that lasts? This has been a challenging season of life. Much more challenging that I thought it would be. I have lessons to write. Service Projects to manage. A summer trip to plan. Bryan House stuff to accomplish. But all I really want to do right now is go blow bubbles with Baby Rick. Somehow that seems more satisfying than any of the other stuff.

Maybe it's just Spring Fever. But I have had this feeling once before. It had happened a long time ago when I first met a refugee family from Mauritania. After a few months of visiting them I suddenly realized that I felt closer to Jesus and more fulfilled as a person when I was visiting this Muslim family than when I was working my full time ministry job. Though many people didn't understand at the time, I actually felt like Jesus was calling me out of my job at the church in order to do something simpler and to spend more time with refugees. There are many things that are different now in my life, and there are things I have learned since that time that changes the equation a bit. But I still hunger for some simplicity. I don't really know how it's possible right now. But I long for it deeply -- more and more everyday.