Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Team is Safely Home

Just don't give up trying to do what you want to do. Where there is love and inspiration,I don't think you can go wrong.
- Ella Fitzgerald

The Kenyan mission team arrived home safe and sound on Friday afternoon. However, I don't think that I am risking exaggeration by saying that a part of our hearts are still in Kenya!

Some of the team members did become ill during the mission but, except for an exhaustion that often accompanies hard work done well, everyone recovered before departing for home. This was a special team and we felt God's presence throughout the mission in a special and even intimate way. We all feel that we received so much more than we gave!

Now we must process all that we experienced and seek God's leading for the future. As we do that in the coming weeks and months I will be sharing some of the amazing stories from our trip. On behalf of the entire team I want to express our heart-felt appreciation for the many prayers that covered our every step. With your prayers came a confident peace as we reached out to the precious Kenyans that God brought to us each day.

God is opening doors in Kenya for Touching Lives and as He does it is my joy to pass on all that He has planned for us with each of you who are supporting our ministry! I am certain that I will be sharing opportunities for you to become actively involved in what God is doing through TLM both here in the United States and in Kenya!

I do want to thank my clever husband for keeping everyone updated through this News/blog. He took the little bit of information I could text to him each day and turned it into a full update. Thank you, sweetheart!

And I want to thank each of you for coming along with us on this blessed journey. Fasten your seat belts the adventure is just beginning!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tired of or challenged by?

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I recently had an eye-opening discussion with someone who "has it all," at least by the world's standards. As I listened I heard concern, fear, frustration, anger, and helplessness in regard to the state of our world. But what captured me was that I saw each of those things in his eyes. I could almost touch the hopeless resignation before me. And my heart broke.

It was recently pointed out to me, through the vehicle of Mark Batterson's new book, Primal, that Jesus' admonition to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your sould and with all your mind and with all you strength (Mark 12:30) begins with the heart. Jesus does not instruction us to love Him with our mind first. No, that is called science. He asks us to love Him first with our heart. That's called compassion.

And so I am faced with the next step in my journey to love like Jesus loves. And like so often in the past I am confronted by questions. Am I going to continue to look around or through the people I see every day or am I going to begin to see them with eyes of compassion? Am I tired of or challenged by their struggles, fears, and failures? Am I going to love like Jesus loves? Am I?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

One of the "Hard to Love"

By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe
Hebrews 11:31

I am Rahab...the harlot. It's not fair, but that is how I'm known. Or maybe it is fair. At any rate, it's certainly is not accurate - anymore. It just seems that some "titles" are hard to shake off. Actually, I've gotten used to it and it even makes me smile. But forgive me, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Let me tell you my story and hopefully it will make you smile too.

I live in the town of Jericho. It's a very small town made up of only ten acres of land but it is important to Joshua, the Israelite, partially because it's the home of a wonderful, perennial spring flowing with life-giving water. It also controls the northern road in the Jordan Valley that leads to the popular trade city of Beth-San. Oh, but the most important thing about Jericho is that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob promised to give this city to His children, the Israelites.

Everyone in Jericho had heard many stories about Joshua's God. And in time it became obvious to me that this God loves outrageously. Get this, He even loves me! I'm not sure I'll ever understand it but it has changed me! I left my former "career" and began to follow this God that they call Yahweh.

Then one day I opened my door to two young men. They told me that Joshua sent them to Jericho to spy out the land that they were preparing to take over and they needed refuge. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! God had sent them to me! He not only loves me, He trusts me. Really? Me? The only thing I could say was, "I am willing!"

The young men at my door, however, did not share my enthusiasm over the Lord's choice of accommodations for them! But that was only natural, they didn't know me like God knows me! Although I did win them over when I hid them on my roof under piles of flax and told the king's soldiers that my Jewish visitors had already left Jericho. I suggested that if they hurried they might be able to catch the two foreigners. My guests were so impressed with my willingness to protect them that before they left my home (in the opposite direction of the soldiers, of course) they promised to do the same for me and my entire family when they returned. And they were true to their word!

So you see, I am Rahab, the harlot. No, actually I am Rahab, the loved and forgiven harlot. And that makes me smile!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Day For All Moms

Motherhood is priced of God, at price no man may dare to
lessen or misunderstand.
-Helen Hunt Jackson

Whether your "baby" is young or old, on earth or in heaven, a child you bore or that of another, or a child waiting for the day of their arrival on earth, my prayer for this day is that you and your child would have a renewed awareness and celebration of the precious and eternal gift that is motherhood.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The "Act Like It" Phase

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will go strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

My last "break through" lesson in love was that God loves me. His love is unconditional, safe, and...permanent. The resulting challenge (God loves to challenge and stretch His kids!) was that I should live and love as though I am the recipient of the literally outrageous love of the Creator of the Universe. This is the "lab" part of my Love 101 course. This is where I apply what I've learned practically. I like to call it the "act like it" phase of my learning. The interesting thing is that, in this lab, I am studying myself as much as I am studying love.

What's that? You want to know what I've learned? I was really afraid you were going to ask! Well, the short version is that I've learned that I am a wimp! I am short-sighted, I am easily distracted, and I am self-focused. Hey, come on, you asked! BUT...I am also learning over and over on a daily basis, that I have an incredible Abba Daddy who is always willing to forgive and never willing to give up on me.

And although I am not setting any world's records in regard to how quickly I'm learning, I am finding that when I become distracted by my own fragile ego it is taking less time to re-focus and "hear" the Holy Spirit's still, small voice. And His voice always says, "Focus on Me, my daughter. Remember that I love you - always. And I will help you see those you are struggling with through My eyes. Sweetheart, I love them like I love you and I want you to love them the way I do."

Do I need to be loved by the people I love? Yes, the plain truth is that I do need some of them to love me. We all do, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. That is the way God wired us. But because of the safety and security in Jesus' love for me, I can love people who don't love me back. Some days when my focus is more on myself than Jesus it can feel brutal. At other times I am filled with a longing, a literal ache, for the "hard to love" people in my life to realize and embrace the intensity of God's love for them. On those days God's Spirit whispers to my spirit, "Now you are learning what real love looks like."

"Still the prayer I had prayed nearly every day for over a decade remained: Jesus, let me love with Your love and see with Your eyes. Show me what it means to be the expression of Your heart to those around me. Because I knew more than ever that His love did indeed have a face: mine."
Michelle Perry from Love Has A Face

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Psalm 3:5

So, I took the concept of loving people, especially those who are not particularly interested in me or my love, with an eternal perspective to heart and tried to put it into practice. And it worked...for about five minutes! That's about how long it took for those old feelings of hurt and bitterness to sneak back up to the surface. Oh, I would refocus on God and His love for them only to find myself saying, "Hey, what about me?"

"What about you, My daughter?"
"I want to be loved too. I want love to be safe."
"I do love you. You are safe with Me"
"I know."
"Do you really? Do you value My love? Do you trust My love?"
"Well...yes, of course I do."
"Then you are safe. Now I'm asking you to live and love like you believe it."

Ouch! Loving the hard to love is more about me and God than it is the person I'm trying to love. I know that I can trust Him and His love for me. He saw me through the loss of my precious baby, Peanut, and even turned my tragedy into triumph. And that's just one example of His tender love for me. He and I have history! God has proven to me that I can trust Him. Ok, I'll try again and again. "But God, why is it so hard? Shouldn't loving others be easier? Why does it sometimes feel like...well, suffering?"

"Unfortunately, my dear one, that is the only way you will learn obedience, not just in loving others but, in everything you do. And My Son modeled that for you. Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Hebrews 5:8"

So, loving others is really about trusting and obeying You. "Father, Author of my faith, please help me to trust you more."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Touching Lives is on the Move!

Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you!
As the Father has sent me,
I also send you.
John 20:21

"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..." Well, not yet but God is asking me to take these love lessons on the road! Specifically He's sending me, with over 20 others, to Ahero and Wachara, Kenya this July! Two of the board members for Touching Lives Ministry are joining with a medical mission team to participate in medical camps while keeping the eyes and ears of our souls open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We at TLM believe that God may be sending us to this region to open our first medical clinic. We ask that anyone visiting this blog would partner with us in praying that God would reveal His perfect will for us during our mission. It is exciting to realize that God has provided for us to be vehicles of physical and spiritual healing through this trip whether we end up in Ahero full time or not. That is so God!

We do have some prayer requests to pass on:
  • Wisdom for the mission leaders as we prepare to go

  • Safety and health for the team and loved ones of team members while we're gone

  • Discernment for TLM leaders to hear God's call

  • Provision of a portable ultra sound machine for TLM in time for the mission

  • That lives would be touched and changed

  • That God will be glorified and magnified in all we do!

The trip dates are July 17 -29. I look forward to sharing all that God does during that trip with each of you who are partnering with us!

Now may the God of peace...make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13: 20a-21

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here's the Dilemma...

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21

I have had a nagging question almost from the beginning of this journey into the inner recesses of real love. I've tried to push it aside, to ignore it. But it just won't go away. And it seems to me that I won't be able to grasp all that God is teaching me until God and I tackle this issue. So, I'm just going to lay it out there and then dive for cover!

"God, I want to love like you love. I know I can't do that fully, however that is always my goal. But here's the problem, sometimes when I try to unconditionally love those who don't love me back I feel...ahh...well...(look at the ground, give a little kick)...abused!" There, I said it! Now what do I do with it?

To clarify, I'm not referring to physical abuse. Jesus protected the woman caught in adultery from being physically attacked by the religious leaders of that day. I believe that physical abuse breaks God's heart. What I'm speaking of is the feeling of being used, having false accusations brought against you in an attempt to make the accuser look superior, being laughed at. These are tough, hurtful things. Does God really ask that we endure them and just blindly meet them with love?

The bottom line answer to that question is that we have to take each individual situation and each individual to God in prayer to know for sure. However, there are times that the answer is - yes. Sometimes unconditionally means, well, unconditionally. So, how do I joyfully do that?

The answer came from God's Still, Small Voice, "You must have and keep an eternal perspective." If I answer harshness with anger today, how does that impact eternity? If my hurtful answer gives me a feeling of importance today, how distinguished will I feel when I stand before God to justify my response? Do I treasure my ego today more than any influence God may have through me for eternity?

It's all about perspective.

Friday, February 26, 2010

But, What Does That Look Like?

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the
candle or the mirror that reflects it.
-Edith Wharton

Please excuse me for a moment while I do a short review (as much for myself as for anyone who might be stopping by) of where God has taken me so far this year.
  1. God has much that He wants to teach me about love in 2010.
  2. My first lesson was that I am not capable of loving like God love.
  3. Next came the discovery that in spite of #2 God wants to love the "hard to love" through me.

I think I have it - I don't always like it - but I think I'm making some progress! Or am I? I tend to be a visual learner. So, I often find myself asking the question: What does that look like? I know that loving those who don't love me back is difficult, stressful, and trying. But that's how it makes me feel. I need to know how I am supposed to live it out on a daily basis. And so I have been praying.

Then "Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'" Matthew 22:37 Hmm... Well, I have a pretty good idea of what that looks like. Reading His Word tells me was pleases Him and spending time in prayer gives me more specific direction for each day.

But what do I do when the person or people I'm loving hurt me, insult me, or ignore me? That is when I must follow Jesus' example and love sacrificially. I discovered that the heart of this lesson is that love, grace, and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. God is asking me, asking each of us, to reflect His love to us onto those around us. His love is full of grace and forgiveness. Sometimes that makes me look like a big mirror, sometimes a lone candle. But it always looks like me...on my knees.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stop this Love Bus, I want to get off!

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and
sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
I John 4:10

Ok, I get it. Really, I do get it! I cannot not love the way God loves! I do believe I have fully learned that lesson. God, is it possible for us to move on now?

But the Holy Spirit whispers, once again, to my spirit, "Kathi, there's a part B to this lesson." Yikes! Part A has nearly killed me! (Deep breath and a gulp.) "Lord, I do want to learn. Help me to learn this lesson now so I don't have to repeat the course!"

Don't get me wrong I suspect that we all have those in our lives who are challenging to love. They are the people who just are not, or maybe cannot, go away. So, we pray and grit our teeth and try to make ourselves available so that God can love them through us. But every now and then we go through seasons where we feel like God has added 5,000 to those one or two who are always there!

And the Holy Spirit says, "I've had a lot of practice in this area, will you allow me to love these through you?"

"But can't you just love them, Lord, and leave me out of it?"

"Yes, I can. But I would rather do it through you."

"Oh. Thanks."

"I'll do it through you, if you allow me. The decision is yours."

These lessons on love are a lot harder than I thought they would be! I was looking forward to a year of warm and fuzzy. But God always wants to take us deeper.

This is what the missionary, Amy Carmichael, had to say about this kind of love in her book, If, What Do I Know of Calvary Love? "The way of love is never an easy way. If our hearts be set on walking in that way we must be prepared to suffer. 'It was the way the Master went; should not the servent tread it still?' It is possible that we may be enclosed in circumstances which drain natural love, till we feel as dry as grass on an Indian hillside under a burning sun."

With eyes open wide, each of us must decide for ourselves if we really want to love like God loves.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not Enough

"If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Amy Carmichael

Given my tendency to tackle challenges head-on, as soon as God revealed His focus for my life this year, my first thought was, "Ok, where do I start? Let's get going!" And I proceeded to busy myself looking for the "logical" place to begin to explore the deeper, self-sacrificing love that God showed me through His Son.

However, it wasn't long before the Holy Spirit whispered,, I think this time He shouted, "Kathi, I will show you were to begin!" It was then I discovered that before I could even begin to learn anything of real substance about the kind of love God is calling me to I have come face-to-face with the fact that I do not, can not love...enough.

I must confess that this is not a lesson I thought I needed to learn! You see, I am a "touchy, feely" kind of person who loves (pun intended) and enjoys giving both love and grace. I thought I had the whole loving the unloveable covered. Let's move on to the next lesson! But God said, "Let's put that to the test." Keep in mind that when God tests us it is not for Him to learn more about us but rather to teach us more about - us.

Over the past two weeks I have been confronted by person after person, situation after situation where I cannot remain neutral. I must choose to love or not, there is no middle ground. And if I choose to love I know at the outset that I have no realistic expectation to be loved in return. My heart says, "I want to love, that is part of who I am." My head says, "I feel like I'm getting beat up. Why would I love when I get only pain in return?" The answer to this question is less about us and more about Jesus. And reconciling this dilemna is the foundational challenge that I, in fact all of us at one time or another must tackle if we truly desire to learn more about love.

So, before I can move on to other lessons I must come to the undeniable realization that, without Christ, my love is simply...not enough.
Dare we move on to the next lesson?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

...and the theme for this year is...

"You've heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate you enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Jesus in Matthew 5: 43-44, 46 NKJV

For several years God has given me a theme for each new year. Last year's theme was focus and refocus. This year God didn't waste any time. On New Year's Day He clearly communicated to me that I am to focus on love. Love...hmm...this is going to be fun! After all, I have a wonderfully loving relationship with my husband who is my best friend, I am crazy in love with my son and daughter-in-love, I have the unspeakable joy of sharing God's love in ministry around the world, I also have the privilege of speaking love into the lives of couples who have lost babies, I love being a part of bringing new life into the world through working in Labor and Delivery, and I am a part of an incredibly loving church family! Bring it on!

But it didn't take long to discover that the love God is calling me to this year is a deeper love. Our society has a way of taking life issues like this and wrapping them in pretty packages so that we can sit in our comfortable living rooms and say, "Ah, isn't that sweet!" We are just two weeks into 2010 and already God has moved me beyond warm, fuzzy feelings to something deeper. In a sense it even goes beyond romantic love, although that certainly can be a component of it.

No,this is a dangerous love. This is sacrificial love. This is the kind of love Jesus had as He hung on the cross. The missionary, Amy Carmichael, called it Calvary Love. I like to refer to it as illogical love. In short, God is asking me, asking us, to love those who can't or won't love us back.

Now, it just so happens that I have a blog! So, I invite you to climb aboard and take this journey to love with me. However, if you dare join me I think it's only fair to warn you to buckle your seat belt. I think this is going to be a wonderfully bumpy ride!