Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Always a place for gifts...

I'm one of the artistic type of people. I love to make things beautiful...with fabric...with a piano or keyboard-that-places-an-orchestra-at-my-fingertips...with words...with a mouse and screen and vectors and colors...with website coding.

But so often, I wonder how God can really use art. It often seems so very unpractical and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things...even though I know that these things I love to do stem from a gift He's given me.

Maybe that's why this photo post from Keely blessed me so much...

A Melody to God. . .

As we were doing the normal “tour the Compassion Development Center” this morning I couldn't help but notice all the bright colors covering the walls.

Some filled with writing, some with diagrams. . . but every wall was Art.

We walked into a room that had a handful of beautifully painted canvases displayed on the shelves. . .I was in awe and quickly knew someone at the project had talent and sees talent.

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Admiring the art I asked one of the project staff members who the art teacher was. . .I had to meet them!

With a big smile they said “Our director Susan, she is an artist.”

Go meet Susan and see how God is using her gift to heal...


Or if you'd like to see more photos from a photo blogger along for the trip:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another compassion trip...

You're probably going to see quite a few posts go up in the next few days. You see...there's another Compassion Bloggers trip going on, this time to the Philippines.

One of my dearest online friends lives in the Philippines, and I have some Filipino cousins, so this country is dear to my heart. I'm catching up today, as I haven't been online much over the last few days.

I love to follow these trips. I love what getting this real-life glimpse does to me...glimpses that are sometimes more like raw gashes ripped open...viewpoints and experiences from real-life people like me, into worlds that are nothing like mine but which God has miraculously enabled me to have a small part in ministering to.

I'd love to go on one of these blogging trips someday...to experience what they do first hand, to listen to the Father's heart and receive all that I know He would show me, and then to share that with the tiny bit of world that follows this blog.

I actually signed up for it today. The last time or two I thought about it, I listened to the voice that said not to bother. After all, this blog isn't followed all that widely so I probably wouldn't get picked. And after all, I haven't posted the blogs they've asked me to. (They didn't mesh with the heartbeat of this blog, that's all.)

And yet...I want to go. More specifically, I want to go to India.

When I was 17 and 18 years old, one of my closest friends was an Indian girl I worked with at JCPenney. We were the same age and we worshiped the same God and we had the same dreams of getting married and having children. But she dreamed of her parents choosing a wonderful Christian man from India for her, and I dreamed of the man I had known for 5 years and who very soon began to court me.

The contrast fascinated me. And we rejoiced with each other when each of us got married and had our first child.

And then we lost touch. Both of us moved, and somehow forwarding addresses got missed. I don't even know if she is still in the US or if she went back to India, and I do not remember her last name or how to spell it.

But I miss her.

She is, perhaps, the reason why I chose a teenage Indian girl to sponsor. "My" girl is 19 now, and only has a few months left in Compassion's program. Does she dream of marriage, in between her dreams and work toward finding a job to help support her family? She's never told me so...though I feel quite sure she does. What teenage girl doesn't? But there is also a good chance that she feels marriage is a dream that will never come true, since many Indian cultures require the parents of the bride to pay heavy bridal expenses, both at the marriage and for years after. And so that is one thing I pray about for her.

This heart for India has affected me in strange ways, too. I think that many of us don't realize how selfish and prejudiced we are against Indians. I've heard many complain about Indian-owned places and talk about the owners in ways that I do not think Jesus would join. Who are we to look down on them because their way of living and what we call a "standard" of living is different than ours?

And then there is the tech support lines that many of us wind up talking on. Now, instead of being frustrated that the representative is difficult to understand or reading from a script, I find myself wondering about that human Jesus died for on the other end of the line. How hard did he have to work and how long did he have to wait to get this job? Is talking to me paying for the food that goes on his parent's table? Is my long distance call helping him to escape poverty? Will I bless him as I hang up the phone?

This is why I sponsor H--- in Calcutta/Kolkata. This is why I hope to stay in contact with her when she graduates and then chose another teenage Indian girl to sponsor.

All of this went through my mind again when Shaun Groves invited us to sign up if we were interested. And so I did.

Who's to say that God didn't put this on my heart for a reason? That maybe, some day in the future, I'll be getting a passport and shots so I can visit "my" girls.

And if not, that's okay, too. I'll just continue to follow other people's Compassion trips through the gift of the Internet.

And I'll keep taking you all along with me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The fullness of grace...

I feel like I've wandered away from God. I feel like I've fallen asleep...or gotten stuck in the clay. I feel like...oh all sorts of things.

So what will I believe? Will I live as though I have wandered away from God? Or will I praise Him because His word says, "Where can I go from Your presence? Though I go to the far ends of the earth or settle on the far side of the sea, You are there."

Which is more reliable? My feelings, or His word? (Considering the fact that this universe I live in was created by His Word and continues to exist because of His Word...I think it would be rather foolish to think my feelings mean much of anything.)

And His Word also says that He pulled me out of the miry clay and set me on a rock. Yes, I am fully capable of climbing off the rock and jumping into the clay...but His word also says that this thing He began, He will also complete. He will complete it. Despite any jumping and wallowing that I do.

Oh how good He is! And how marvelous it is to have these feelings, and yet be full of hope and excitement. Perhaps this is the growing of my faith...that these mental feelings are less real to me than His Word and His promises and His truths.

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I woke up after a strange dream yesterday morning at 6am. The dream faded, and I quickly realized that it has been several months since I woke up early, just to be awake with Him. Months ago, it happened almost every morning. I'd wake up, suddenly wide awake, and so I'd lay in bed and just talk to Him. It was a totally different kind of spending-time-with-Him than worship is or reading my Bible is.

But it's been months...and I'd forgotten it so completely that I didn't even miss it. I found myself extremely grateful for it this morning...that He had woken me up so completely once more and given me this gift.

I asked...or rather, begged...Him to speak to me some more...and I think He did. For I was reminded of the importance and the grace of waiting on Him. He reminded me of His patience and forgiveness. Of the greatness that uses all things (even two months of forgotten desires) both for my good and for His plan.

I opened my Bible to the Psalms, following what I trust was a nudge from Him, and I came upon a verse in Psalm 73. In this Psalm, Asaph is bemoaning the fact that it seems that the ungodly are prospering and that he is getting nothing in return for his righteousness. I haven't really felt like this, for God has really been showing me His favor...but something kept me reading anyway.

And there, right in the middle off the chapter, was this verse:
"It was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God.”
It was difficult for this psalmist to understand what God was doing, and how He worked, and why things happened the way they did...until he entered God's presence. But there, everything made sense.

I remembered the words to the first song God every gave me:
Here, in this place. Here, I am changed... (full words in this post)

And I knew that God was calling me back to waiting on Him, for waiting on Him is sometimes an active thing. It's the same paradox that Philippians 2:12-13 speaks of:
...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.
He is the one who is doing the work...He is the one who wills, and He is the one who acts. This is what grace is. Yet there is a "working out" that we must do. I know this, and somehow, against all odds, I understand it, though I do not know how to explain it. It is what I first glimpsed in My Ultimate Makeover story, though my understanding of it now is deeper than it was 10 years ago. Perhaps it is something that only the Holy Spirit is capable of explaining.

It's something I'm still learning, too...something that I will probably still be learning more of 'till the day I die.

Something that He's been whispering to me these last two months is that, just as He's taught me to trust His provision in my finances, so He is now seeking to teach me to trust His provision spiritually as well. That sounds...I don't know...such an inadequate way to describe what He keeps pointing at. I don't know how to describe it. It's simply deeper. It is more. It's beyond description with natural words. The closest words that come to mind at this moment are the fullness of grace.

The peace and joy and power and purpose and gifts that I walk in now are His grace. But they are such a small, tiny portion of His grace, which is abundantly above all that I could ask or think. But isn't that such an amazing statement that Paul makes in that prayer?
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us...
The very furthest reaches of our imagination don't even come close to what He is actually able to do. In us and through us and for us. That is grace. His power at work.

I've got a story.

Three years ago, after we moved here to Ohio, we had to get new tires for our minivan. We shopped and thought carefully about the quality of tires and traction and all that, and we finally made our purchase. We had hardly driven on them at all, though, before we started to have problems. They made a wobbling road noise, and they made the car pull to whichever side the bad tire(s) were on. I took the car back, and they refused to acknowledge that there was a problem. For almost two years, every time I took it in for the complimentary tire rotations, they brushed off both problems. And both only got worse.

A year ago, I gave up. I reconciled myself to the fact that I would have to continually pull on whichever side of the steering wheel that the bad tire(s) were on for another 4 years or more, and we might not get as many miles out of them as we had hoped.

But then, a few weeks ago, one tire got a bubble in the sidewall. I took it back for that, wondering if maybe this was finally the manifestation of whatever problem had existed from the beginning. I asked God for them to honor their warranty on this problem...though I told Him that I wasn't sure what we were going to do about the fact that the warranty pro-rated problems, so even if they covered this, I'd probably wind up having to pay $100, only to end up with one new tire and three half-worn ones that didn't match.

But then I thought of God's desire for justice...how God hates unjust measures and those that take advantage of others. Our pastor had been preaching on this topic, and these tires, I knew, were an instance where I was being taken advantage of, for we had not paid hundreds of dollars to received bad tires!

I made the decision to rely on God's justice, whatever that may be. To surrender it fully into His keeping, and accept whatever decision He made. (This is where faith comes in...trusting that His justice always will be correct, and submitting to the possibility that it might be different from what seems right to my limited perception.)

I'd admit...it wasn't easy leaving it in His hands. Especially when the tire guy took my keys and told me that it wasn't likely that they'd do anything about it. (This was the same guy that had refused to do anything for the last two years about the other problems.) He said they'd take it for another drive, though I wondered why. After all, you could see the bubble just by looking at it.

I went and sat down, and I embarked on a battle of the mind. Every time I caught myself preparing for what I'd say if the guy came and told me they wouldn't do anything, I shut myself up and told myself that I had better not act as though I expected my God to do nothing!

It was a very long 15 minutes.

Finally, the guy came and told me that the bubble had been caused by hitting a pothole (unavoidable in Ohio farm country), but for some reason that was beyond his understanding, the company had decided to give me a full set of four brand-new tires...the tires we should have gotten in the very beginning.

For free.

It's beyond my understanding why the guy even bothered to call the company, if he could tell that the bubble wasn't covered under warranty...especially after refusing to do anything all the other times I'd taken it to him.

But that is what God can do in the financial/practical realm.

I sense Him saying that He wants to do these sorts of things in the spiritual realm as well, and that this is a season of emptying for me.

He led me through years of financial struggles so I could learn to rely on His grace in my finances...and now He's leading me through this season so I can learn to rely on His grace in other realms. And just as He doesn't want to just simply provide but bless me financially, so He doesn't want to simply provide enough grace to survive. He wants to teach us to walk in the fullness of His grace...a fullness that is already mine.

What life is going to look like coming out of this season is something I don't even feel qualified to imagine. Why even try? After all, He is able to do more than I can imagine...and He seems to delight in these sorts of surprises, truth be told.

So what am I to do in the meantime? I feel He is saying, "Just keep seeking Me. Keep waiting on Me. Keep worshiping. Trust Me for the continued grace to stand firm in what I have already shown you and what I have already led you to do, and leave everything in My hands, for My timing and My ways are perfect."

Thank You, precious Heavenly Father.
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