Transformed

She was sitting on the sofa under a tapestry of a desert scene, laughing and making jokes with those nearby, scooping sweet sticky rice into a cup to take home. A snapshot of a Filipino fiesta celebration. Her friends were churchmates. We had all walked over from our monthly joint house church communion together and gathered at a church leader’s house to eat the dinner provided for whoever would stop by. The joy in the room was palpable, because we were all believers gathered in a community that is growing closer and deeper with each day. This woman was once hard. She didn’t like to leave her house, and when she did would stay quiet and reserved. The woman I saw before me today was a woman transformed.

And so was the woman hosting us. One of the first believers in our ministry here, when we first met her she had an expression that I can only describe as gray. I’ll never forget the look on her face the day after she surrendered to Jesus. Her eyes sparkled and she was literally shining. The sparkle and the shine have only grown on her, and she wears them well. Nicknamed “Pastora,” she led us today in worship on the karaoke machine at the bar-turned-house-church where one of the churches gathers every Sunday. “Joy, I’m so full of joy,” she often says.

Last night one of the young men in our ministry rejoined us after a couple of months interning in Manila. He reported having found a church there, and how peaceful he felt when he entered it. He enjoyed getting to know other believers, and came home rejoicing about how God had guided him during his time away. His hands were some of the first to go up as our community worshiped today.

His best friend prayed over our food as we gathered to eat lunch. His prayer was deep and meaningful as he glorified God with his words. We tease him by putting the title “pastor” before his name, because to be a pastor is to be wholeheartedly evangelical. For this boy raised in the catholic church as a sacristan, a pastor is the last thing he ever thought he’d be. But now he leaves through the pages of his Bible searching for the last truth that struck him, so he can share it. In our last mentoring meeting with him he claimed boldly about his Bible, “We have to follow this before we follow tradition.”

At that same meeting was a man whose transformation is near unbelievable. He is the husband of one of our key leaders. He worked in Manila, but came home last year and stayed. Jealousy and drunken rage characterized his interactions with our community, and we prayed for him from a distance. His wife, who we were encouraging to get baptized, wanted to wait until she could be baptized with her husband. “If that is what she’s waiting on, she’ll never be baptized,” I would turn away thinking. But God uses all things for his good for those who love Him, a promise we can hold close to our hearts. A youth in the ministry had been telling this man he needed to surrender to Jesus. He was resistant, until this youth was tragically killed. In the aftermath, this man drew nearer to our community, began to really accept the words of Christ, and surrendered his heart. His faith began like a child’s faith: simple. And God did what his wife had been waiting for. Their whole family was baptized together on a Sunday last August.   Since then we’ve seen his growth come in fits and spurts. Lately he has been exhibiting the deepening of faith that only comes through the Holy Spirit. Excited about what he read about Jesus in Revelation 1, he led our mentoring group in a discussion in which we had a chance to teach about the Kingdom of God and how in it, we are kings and priests.

Royalty and Priests. I have had a front-row seat these past five years to watch these five people go from slaves to kings and queens. From blind followers to the priesthood of believers. Spirits transformed from hardness to joviality. Lives given purpose and vision. Black hearts made clean.

Who am I that I get to be a part of such joy and transformation? Who am I that I get to give my life for Jesus and the people He died for? Who am I that I get to spend my life planting churches and being a part of this kind of life change? Jesus has been so utterly undeservedly good to me.

And that is why, on days like today, I sense a renewed commitment to the work of church planting. There are so many people who need their lives to tell stories just like these. They are hurting and they are lost, and there is no one to tell them that Jesus loves them.

The work of the Kingdom is not easy, but the rewards are delicious to the spirit. Let’s get to it. There’s a hard, gray, eager, misled, angry world waiting.

like dreams

I started out this morning reading an article in my news feed (the real news, not fb). I’d like to say I started today with the Word but often He uses other words to reach me, especially while my brain is still waking up. This morning was one of those times. Serendipitously, the article I clicked on quoted a psalm. It was published in Relevant Magazine, with a mention of Chris Pratt’s new Hollywood star and his Instagram post of the event; his caption to the photo is a quote from the Bible: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).

This is my husband’s and my psalm (some people have songs, but, well, not us). It’s engraved on our wedding rings. In particular, the part that says, in verse one, “We were like those who dream.” We’re dreamers, my husband and I.

But lately this psalm has kind of, well, shamed me, because I’ve not been much of a dreamer lately. Or maybe, really, I started to become aware of the feeling of shame when I realized I had dreams that I have been stifling. I haven’t been living as the me I really am deep inside. At least, not lately (like, the past 8 or so years). There are a whole lot of reasons for that, which I will whittle and condense down to one: transition. I could write a book on how not to do transition.

Anyway, so in addition to being surprised that Chris Pratt is a Christian, I spent this morning in his story, challenged and excited by the prospect that God is intimately involved in our dreams. This is something I’ve been aware of, a proponent and teacher of, but sometimes we have to be reminded of the truths behind our beliefs.

The article came on the heels of Elle Luna’s “The Crossroads of Should and Must,” which I read and reveled in yesterday. I found her article through a podcast, which came to me through a list on bloglovin’, which I had visited for eye candy, tempted there by the promise of design inspiration (and where I found two completely conflicting posts about design: one was a list of colors designers are saying are overdone; the other was a list of the colors designers are saying are in this season. The lists were virtually the same.).

So while I lay still cooling off in the wind of our fan (it’s HOT season again!) listening to Elle Luna speak to my soul, I felt an awakening. She was speaking right to the issue I’ve been trying to process over the past several months (year, maybe?). That’s the issue…reality…problem…that the majority of my decisions are based on should, and not, using her vocabulary, must. The must is your passion. It’s what drives you. It’s what makes you want to get up in the morning.

So today, I woke up to an awakening of must dreams and find this article about a guy who has a successful career doing what he loves because he followed his passion (it was cool to find out he’s a brother…heaven is going to be fun with that guy), and I’m slapped (in a gentle and sweet way) with “my” psalm. “We were like those who dream…” The Israelites came back from Babylonian captivity feeling like this must be a dream, going back to Jerusalem free and unfettered.

My husband and I loved the first verse of Psalm 126 because we are dreamers, but I’m reading the psalm now thinking about living in the middle of your dream coming true. To look around you and say, “This must be a dream! There’s no way this is real!”

In some ways, for sure, we are living in the middle of a dream, in the middle of our calling as missionaries. But for me, there’s still been something missing…there’s been a part of myself waiting to be lived in. The door has been blocked by a whole lot of shoulds that have crowded my vision, and I’ve been merely keeping up.

Today, I have an artist I just learned of yesterday and an actor who has made me laugh for years to thank for new commitments in my spirit to push on the door and see what dreams are waiting in my abandoned room.

What will it look like to look up and be living in the land that feels like a dream? My soul longs to go there. I’m setting my course in its direction. I have a lot of work to do. And it’s a delight to get started.

a psalm in prose

a prayer-er’s response to Psalm 2:

As I read Psalm 2 today, when I got to verse 9, “You shall break them (the nations) with a rod of iron,” I contemplated that You have every right to thunder in the earth and crush and shatter the broken systems of darkness, but You don’t.  You didn’t come that way.  You transform from the inside, just like You build the world and create from the cellular level.  So the dark kingdoms that “devise vain things” (v. 1) are not being crushed by iron from the outside, but where light shines in darkness, their power starts to fade, their kingdoms crumble.

There will be a day when You rise in Your greatness and the world falls at Your feet in wonder and fear, because we will all witness that You truly are a God that can and will bring down all the strongholds of evil.  But until that day, You approach us gently.  You seek to encroach upon the systems of injustice from behind enemy lines.

In the same way, You don’t attack Your children with reprimands that cause shame.  You start as a glimmer in our hearts, the flicker of belief, and You fan the flame with the whispers of Your Spirit, so close to our spirits that Your breath grows the flame.  You endure the pride that comes with new belief and wait to direct our passion into more mature channels.

You wait in the shadows of our doubt and seasons of suffering, always there in a light that sometimes feels like dusk in our hearts, the end of the joy of passionate discovery; and just when we think we are never going to grow again, You step out of the shadows to comfort us, having made it through the Valley of the Shadow, and You whisper again to our hearts, and You feed the springs of Living Water in us once again.

Such is life with the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, whose presence is life and whose love is limitless.  Your compassion is fathomless, and we can’t escape it.  Even Your wrath is laced with mercy.  And it’s not the other way around.  You aren’t One to promise with viper kisses.  That is the way of the world.

And so we see again, that the All Powerful One who could crush and smother always chooses the way of hesed.  Transform me to that image, oh Lord!  You made me to bear it!  You made the world to look like You.  Accomplish the transformation, Lord!  Transform Your people, and through us bring justice and mercy.  Make us hesed people.  We were made for nothing less.

stand in the room

Today I had to the opportunity to go to the hospital to hold a sweet toddler, EJ, who accidentally drank kerosene Monday night while playing at a neighbor’s house. He is doing better, but has had fever and breathing with wheezing, which he had before the accident. He’s being sent for x-rays today in the capitol, which is a great development because if there’s any fluid on his lungs, etc., they will hopefully be able to give him a more clear diagnosis. (I really believe the problem from the kerosene was minor and that this sickness is unrelated, as I held him in church Sunday and he had the same breathing issues.)
I was there when the doctor, whom I’ve heard stories of before as being rude and unkind to the patients, made his rounds. He was friendly, as were the nurses. I stood by as another IV was put into EJ, and was glad to see the treatment was tolerable.
I stayed, along with another member in our church, for a couple of hours to give EJ’s momma a break from holding him. He finally fell asleep after his fever went down, which was a relief.  Then we traveled to each bed to pray over the children and hear the stories of the families.  Stories that make your heart bleed.
Although I love doing this kind of compassion ministry, I don’t often participate because I have a seven year old who needs to be homeschooled. Today, however, I decided we were having a “mercy day,” and when I came home from the hospital I took the kids with me to the store to buy some snacks for EJ’s mom and the other parents and children in the pediatric ward (five families). We met up with Edwin and all went back together to make our delivery and were glad to hear from a smiling mom that EJ had been walking around.
Edwin had stopped by the hospital after his morning ministry at a school feeding program and heard some things no one expressed while I was around; namely, that they had all been treated so well while I was there.  They were of the opinion that the doctor would never have ordered the x-ray for EJ if the foreigner hadn’t been in the room.
I’ve been reading Micah over the last few days, contemplating the injustices that arose within Israel against the poor and helpless, against the weak and fatherless, against the oppressed and lonely.  And while I was initially indignant that these sick children and their hurting parents usually sit in a hot room without news from the doctor, waiting through long hours for some news or treatment from a nurse and finally the opinion of the doctor, only to receive treatment because a white woman is in the room, Edwin pointed out to me that sometimes our presence is the act of mercy these people need.
Sometimes we just need to stand up so that others can be seen and heard.  Like literally, just stand.  That’s all I did.  I stood in the room and held a baby.
Today I was aware that I was loving kindness, but I didn’t realize I was also, by being there, doing justice (Micah 6:8).  I was there.  That was all.
My challenge to you, reader, is, “Are you standing up?  Is your presence making a difference in someone’s life?”
You may look up, like I did today, and be humbled that God used you to enact justice even without your conscious effort.
Or you may look around you and realize, something needs to change.
With these words in my mind today I held a toddler so his mom would have a break:
“This One (Jesus) will be our peace” (Micah 5:5).  I prayed peace over baby, peace over momma, peace over the sick crying children in the room, peace over the weary and worried parents who accompanied them.
And because Peace is the Name of our Keeper, His other Namesakes came to the room too: Mercy, Humility, and Justice.
“But he has told you, O believer, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  -Micah 6:8
mic6

winter revelations

flowering-dogwood-in-foggy-forest-appalachian-trail-shenandoah-national-park-virginia-usa
image credit: Charles Gurche

In places with winter the shedding of leaves
makes things once hidden to be seen with ease.
Through branch and twig, beyond hill and cove,
mysteries revealed in nature’s trove.

The house and chimney once hidden from view
show life: joy and hunger, mingled and true.
A scene, passed over in summer’s green,
is now on display in nature’s season lean.

And what connects us as beings in nature
can now find a way out of obscure features
that once clothed in greenery, flowers, and heat,
step out like one naked and loosed and free

to reveal a truth that we all need to know,
that no matter the curtain hiding the show,
we’ve a role to play, meeting applause of thunder
as we each claim a place in a world full of wonder.

So if ivy and moss and shadows and trees
have hidden your you from a world of need;
the you, very you, that thinks, hurts, and feels,
then be glad of the winter that strips and reveals.
-ARS
1.12.17

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

As we passed over the mountain, making our way down, near the ravine and waterfalls that once were covered by jungle greenery, now stripped bare and brown by the recent typhoon, I contemplated the significance of losing our coverings.

It was like what winter does in places with winter. We can see homes and farms and factories and roads and schools and outlines of hills and waterfalls and ponds and rivers that we once weren’t made privy to. There’s a sense of wonder that accompanies a land laid bare before your eyes. In the South the dogwood sprouts gorgeous white flowers before any of the other trees sprout green, and you can see deep into the brown wood the promise of spring in these delicate petals. It kind of takes your breath away.

In the tropics, you rarely have a chance to see what the rainforest hides. Waterfalls and streams and rivers are only noticeable if you are near enough to hear them. So what a paradoxical gift has been given with the typhoon, that we can now see some of these beautiful wonders from the road.

Houses and communities are uncovered where I once thought was only forest. Lines of laundry tell a story of a family, the small clothing of children and their stuffed animals hung from the line. They did not exist to me before today, and yet, there is their house, beyond that grove of branches; a life that has always been there, seen by God. I can think of them now, on a thought like a whisper.

What did not exist before today is unavoidable to me now.

I see so many applications for life in this.

Like, when a world of need comes out of the shadows and speaks its name, we must pay attention. God doesn’t call every person to meet every need, but if we are living our lives mostly concerned with our own needs, what room is there to meet the needs of others?

I think of needs that the winter of a tragic world has pulled the curtain back for:

-the world wide refugee crisis and how we must, if we claim to be God’s people, do something to help (“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34; for more Scripture pertaining to the foreigner in our midst: read here)

-hidden people groups like the Rohingya who are isolated and forgotten, aching in the brutal reality of ethnic cleansing (you can read about it here)

-racial tension in my own country of origin; stories of shame and atrocity

-political lies that have poisoned the minds of otherwise good people

-gender inequities in a patriarchal world that still sees women and girls as less than…

Or perhaps I should bring the application a little closer to home, where the winter solstice of my heart uncovers sin that before I did not have eyes to see. But I see it now, and it must be named. For in the naming and the confessing is the healing. The work and the healing.

Spring will come, but in some cases, we have to bring it. Nature will always restore what has been taken, because that is how God designed nature. It is restoring itself toward newness, just like He will restore us from our sin and shame and guilt and struggle, making us free and at peace and strong and joyful…

…so that we can face a world stripped bare by winter and help in the work of restoration. For God didn’t create us and free us from sin to have us sit on our couches fat and happy. He says we are His “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Being created in Christ means we have been made new, rescued from sin and death and given a new course, a new life full of work and purpose. Any believer who is not seeking God’s work for them is ignoring God’s purpose for their lives, and in turn, ignoring a hurting world.

Are we, as God’s people, ignoring our work? When the Church sees a need is she turning inward, instead of outward? Am I ignoring a crying soul that I was meant to help? Are you?

Winter tends to be a difficult time, made easier in the recent century by central heating and grocery stores that carry goods in all seasons. Typhoons and tornadoes and earthquakes and all forms of natural disasters, too, bring us to the brink of who we are and what we can handle. But nature’s intensity also forces us to see reality, issues or people we would rather have stayed hidden behind the veils of fruitful seasons.

But if we cannot look at the world squarely in the face and see and respond to the need we were made to meet, then the world will continue to exist without the Good News that brings the spring. Jesus put on winter so that we could see the true love of God. And then He destroyed it at the cross, taking those of us who would trust Him with Him into newness of life.

Embrace winter and the ugly truths it reveals. Ask God to show you what you didn’t see before. Trust He will teach you how to face it. And live in transformation, with bold courage before a wintery world. The applause of your God awaits you.

 

for the kids back home

Hello kids! Greetings from a small island on the eastern coast of the Philippines! We live in a small town called San Andres. Many of the people here are fishermen or rice farmers. Our whole family of four can get around town on a motorcycle, which is really fun. Because it’s hot all year we can spend time at the beach any time of the year, and we never have to wear winter clothes.

But something that has always scared me about where we live is that it is prone to have hurricanes. The same way that scary thunderstorms in Mississippi sometimes bring tornadoes, where we live sometimes storms out in the warm Pacific Ocean bring hurricanes. In Asia they are called typhoons.

The week before Christmas we were preparing for the busy busy time of serving people. In the Philippines, kids go around from house to house every night the week before Christmas and sing Christmas carols. It’s kind of like trick-or-treating, except it’s every night for a whole week. The people in the homes give them either candy or pesos, which is what money is called here. It was raining a lot and we found out a typhoon was on its way, and would probably hit on Christmas Day.

We have had many small typhoons pass over us since we’ve lived here. Sometimes they turn back out to the ocean, or they go north or south of us. But this one was on a course to hit our town directly. We prayed it would weaken, but it got stronger!

Have you ever prayed that God would do something for you or someone you know, and He didn’t answer the way you wanted Him to? How did that make you feel?

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”

Sometimes it is hard to trust that what God is doing in our lives is the best thing. But if we trust that God, as our attentive and loving Creator, knows our inmost parts (Psalm 139), then we can trust that He knows what is best for us even if it is hard or it hurts.

On Christmas morning we had a lot of people in our home because in the Philippines, on Christmas morning, children go from house to house to see their godparents. We are godparents to several children, and we prepared snacks (sweet spaghetti and cupcakes!) for them and their families. As we visited, the winds started to rise. People were out and about trying to prepare for the coming storm.

We already had a lot of supplies and had prepared for the power and water to be cut off. We had flashlights charging and buckets full of water in our bathrooms. But many people don’t live in strong concrete houses like ours. They were trying to find other homes to stay in when the storm arrived.

Soon we found out that the storm had been raised from category three to category four. And it wasn’t classified as a typhoon, but as a SUPER typhoon! I started to get scared. I had never been in a category four hurricane before, much less a super typhoon! The last category four or five super typhoon that came through the Philippines had killed many people and destroyed towns. I had always planned to evacuate our family if a storm like that was coming our way, but this one surprised us, and grew in force quickly. There had been no time to evacuate. And living on an island, you can’t just get in a car and drive to the nearest safe town or state. We were stuck, surrounded by water than might surge with the typhoon winds!

I was glad for the Christmas visitors and the busy-ness, because it kept my mind distracted. Always on my lips was a prayer for safety for us and our town-mates here.

If God was giving this to us, then He would be with us through it.

When something hard happens to you, do you trust that Jesus is with you?

In Deuteronomy 31:6 it says that, “God will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  

Maybe you feel like your friends are abandoning you. Do you know Jesus is a friend who will never leave you? Maybe you are struggling in school. Do you know Jesus is there to help you? Maybe someone you love is sick. Do you know Jesus is compassionate toward you and cares about your pain?  

He made a promise. He will keep it, even if we don’t feel like He is there.

The power went out around lunchtime, and then we just had to wait for the storm to come. We had one of our son Josiah’s friends with us. Her house was a small wood and branch house that wasn’t safe to stay in, so she stayed with us while her mom went to help her family through the storm. We ate leftovers for supper by candlelight as the wind really started to howl.

Soon, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to wait out the storm in our upstairs because wind was making rain rise up and come through the windows. The pressure from the storm made our ears hurt, and we quickly moved downstairs.   But downstairs the rain was also coming in every possible crack in a door or window. In the Philippines, houses aren’t built the same as in America. There is no central air conditioning, and so houses aren’t sealed well. Our windows are more like shutters, and wind and air can get through them even when they are closed. At one point, water was coming from the top of the door!

We thought, “If water is coming from the top of the door, then the wind is very powerful! It is swirling and howling and crashing against the house!”

I was very scared. But I couldn’t just think about my fear. We tried to sing with worship music but we couldn’t hear the speakers over the storm. So we told (or more like shouted) a story to the kids, instead. Because I felt like we were in a flooding boat, I told the story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus.

Luke 8:22-25 tells us the story of the disciples with Jesus in a boat. Jesus fell asleep and a storm came. It says in verse 23, “As they sailed across, Jesus settle down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.” 

The disciples were in danger. Where was Jesus!? It was like He wasn’t even there! Where was His help? DIDN’T HE EVEN KNOW THEY WERE IN DANGER!?

Jesus was there. He was right there in their boat. He was with them. Did they feel like He was with them? No. But He was right there all along.

Sometimes Jesus is silent in our pain or our struggle or our problems. But He is right there, all the same.

The story continues, “They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are going to drown!’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm.”

Jesus showed His power that time by calming the wind and the waves. While we were in the storm and our storm shutters were banging against the house and the rain was coming in all over the house and flooding down the stairs and the water was rising at our feet, I wanted Him to calm the storm right then! But I knew that He was going to let the storm continue and pass over.

But what He did for me was He calmed the storm in my heart.

Sometimes Jesus doesn’t calm the storms of struggle that whirl around us in our homes or at school or in our families or with our friends. But if we look to Him, He will calm the storm in our hearts and give us peace.  

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

And Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus doesn’t promise that we will not have hard times, but He does promise that

            -He is with us and will not leave us.

He will be with us through the hard times.

            -He will give us peace when we seek Him in prayer.

When the storm passed we were left with a flooded house and a lot of wet things, but we had our lives, and we knew that God had protected us, even though He took us through a terrible storm. The next day, when we went outside, we saw power poles down in front of our house and across every street. But we found out quickly that not a single person perished in the storm!

Wow! What a Mighty God we serve!

God knows and loves every single one of you. He created every personality and knows that you like ponies or soccer or princesses or camping. He knows that your big brother gives you fits or that your cat is sick. He knows. And He cares about it all.

If you can remember one thing from my story, please remember that no matter what you go through in this life, Jesus is with you, ready to calm your heart. Search for Him and He will make Himself known to you. Look for Him and you will find Him, even if you are in the middle of a terrible storm.

 

To help us help the people whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed in Typhoon Nina, go here: https://us.worldteam.org/typhoon-relief

 

Generating Perseverance

“The things of earth stand next to Him like a candle to the sun.”*

I claim this as I stand at a sink full of dirty dishes, having just left my bathroom where dirty diapers are waiting to find water. Because, when we don’t have electricity, we also don’t have water, because we depend on an electric pump to bring up water from the deep well on our property.

Two things that are blessings in this scenario:
1. We have fresh water on our property, even if it requires filling buckets and hauling them all over the house.
2. We have a generator that we can use, as long as we have gasoline and as long as it continues to work, which allows us to have electricity (and thus, water) a few hours a day.
During those few hours I wash dishes, laundry, and fill up buckets in bathrooms. I become a machine, and you better get out of my way, because each minute, money evaporates with the fumes of gasoline! I am so deeply grateful for our generator.

But in those moments when the water is low and Edwin isn’t available to start the generator (the pull is broken and it is rigged with a difficult mechanism to get it started. I’m still afraid of it.), I have to remind myself that
1. Jesus loves me.
2. Many people have it worse off than me.

Many
many
people.
Most, actually.

Most people in the world live far greater suffering than I have experienced. And Jesus is so good to me to bring me to the line, to stretch me to my limits along the border on which the other side would take me to insanity; He graciously doesn’t force me over. At the line I can see and feel that suffering that is born by most of the world, even if just barely.

Luxuries start to fade away when you live on a generator. Using an air conditioner is unthinkable. We can only use fans sparingly during the hours the power is on (thank goodness it’s “cool” season!). Hot water showers are inaccessible because the electric heaters suck too much energy. Ice is a luxury we won’t have for quite a while, but we can have cold water if we leave our water bottles in the freezer all day, which stays cool enough our few hours of running the generator that our meat and other frozen goods haven’t gone bad yet.

I haven’t had to buy groceries since before Christmas (except for a few fresh fruits and vegetables) because I was prepared to avoid busy Christmas stores. Because of our generator, I have ben able to sustain our family from the food already in our house.

We may have terrible cell and internet service, but during the hours of generator we can charge our devices, as well as the phones and chargeable lights of friends and neighbors, so that we can continue to show the kids a DVD a day, and listen to worship music while we work, keeping us spiritually centered.

God is using the generator to feed my ability to persevere. I am beyond thankful for the means to keep it running (so far). I’m daily reminded that these “momentary trials” are a part of life on a spectrum of experiences of suffering. My using generator-powered electricity a few hours a day is still a luxury many of the “most” will never experience as they eek out a living in the daily toil of life on earth.

And therefore I am even more grateful.

And also even more humbled.

Even in my loss I still have so much.

Like the fumes of gas that keep my generator running, these grateful thoughts fuel my perseverance. One provides a light I can see by. The other points to the Light I live by.

Praise be to God.

*“Behold,” by Hillsong on the album “Let there be Light.”