Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Paso A Paso

It's quiet. The silence wraps around me, friendly and warm.
I wonder how many days of silence it will take before I grow cold to it again?
It takes silence for contemplation to come.

Here I am again, after a whirlwind. After a needed break.
Here I am again, and a whole new adventure has begun. A new life has opened up suddenly, and at moments I am nearly breathless from it, at moments I am in awe. God has moved powerfully, and directed my steps anew. Prayers, deep ones, have been answered.

In January, in the midst of desperation, of heartbreak, of soul searching, I wrote down eight goals to work towards. Eight changes for positive steps, eight things that needed work. Eight goals.
Then life happened. I worked, I studied, I wrestled. For two dark months, I was in depression, I was facing darkness, and I felt like my life was going nowhere fast.

But prayers were being lifted, on my behalf. Many people were praying.

And I kept working, kept taking steps. Baby steps, one at at time. Paso a paso.

And God began to work, changing my heart. God began to give me strength, began to show me the beams of sunshine just beginning to show on the horizon.

I counted gifts, found the sunshine, and slowly it began to filter that God was there in the darkness, that He was there in the night, and that He had given light instead of darkness, and day instead of night. Slowly I felt His love again, slowly I believed His goodness again.

God is so good. All the time.

Finally, in April, I remembered that list of eight goals. I pulled them out again and looked at them and was astonished that all of them were either accomplished, or had a solid plan in place to accomplish them.

Step by step they had been met, step by step things had changed, and step by step my heart is being made whole again. Gods grace has been visibly evident. God's love has been showered down. And God's provision has been made manifest.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye, heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Friday, February 15, 2013

40 Days of Lent: Journal Entry #3


"What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, "Here I am!"

-Isaiah 58: 7-9

I began mulling over what kind of photo to take to express that word and verse.
I thought of glasses to aid in seeing...
I thought of a keyhole to see through...
I thought of finding poverty to photograph.

So off I went to look for something to photograph to express seeing the needs around me. That's when I discovered how clean and tidy my town is. You don't see homelessness or poverty around like you'd think. There aren't many places to find the hungry or the shivering out on the street.
They are hidden.

Or maybe they are tidied up and covered up.

Maybe, its good that there isn't any visible poverty showing.
Maybe its very sad.

Maybe the sad part is the look of affluence, the excess around. The nice, tidy homes. Maybe it could be people who hide their poverty, or maybe its just people hiding from poverty.

How do I hide from poverty?

Thoughts on Seeing today. Seeing the poor, the shivering, the broken, the hungry.


After writing the above, I started thinking about poverty in my area. I asked on Facebook where I might find it here...and then I took a long drive alone.
I explored my town with new eyes, ventured into places and neighborhoods I didn't know existed, and found places where poverty slapped me in the face. Nothing hidden, covered up here. It was exposed, and shouting.
It was such an interesting experience. Nothing I saw was any worse than anything I encountered every day in Bolivia, yet there I wandered around quite fearlessly on foot, and in my car here, I began to feel fear as I drove through places where I obviously did not fit in. It gave me quite a pause, and I considered it while I drove slowly through neighborhoods watching little children play, watching people walk up and down the street, seeing houses in such sad shape yet with people living there anyway. In my hometown.
Why was I feeling that fear? Why was I glancing away, and why did I naturally turn toward the nicer streets first? I forced myself to turn against it, to face it, to look long at these places. To trace the dirt and grime, to meet the eyes of the people I saw, to smile at them. To see.
I was fearful of the depression and poverty. I was afraid of what might lurk, of things I have no real experience with. The shadows were long and attempting to grab me, and I was too willing to run away.

An interesting lesson to myself. Its easy to write about poverty on a nice laptop in a comfortable chair maybe while munching on delicious food. Its so easy to be self-righteous and hypocritical. But then when the rubber meets the road, and I come face to face with reality, what then? What about this world, this other side of things, ugly and uncomfortable? What do I know of it, and what am I doing about it?

I never took my photo today. I saw new things, I have many new mental snapshots within my own zip code, but I never snapped that button on my camera. I was busy seeing. The photo was not made, but it was a changed perspective and new way of looking at my own town, my own neighborhood, looking for those hidden places, or rather, the poverty I hide from.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

40 Days of Lent: Journal Entry #1

Who am I?
The word prompt for this photo.

A question I am struggling with and thinking about a lot these days. Who am I? There are so many people eager to define for me who I am, who have opinions or thoughts on who I should be, or how I might look, or what I might be made of. Its confusing and I strive to find myself in all the babble.

Who am I? As I contemplated this phrase and how to picture it, I began to think of where I am these days, the brokenness I am facing and feeling every moment. I feel all edges and smashed in sharp pieces. I am the broken pottery. I am the pieces of something...

I chose these pieces of pottery because they are pieces I dug up two years ago in Israel at first century level. I remember the careful digging, centimeter by centimeter or even less, by brushes or tiny tools. Even these pieces, these broken bits were carefully handled, carefully brushed out of the dirt and carefully lifted away from the dust where it had lain for centuries.

This pottery is dated to the period of time that Jesus lived in that region. The imagination can take off, inviting all sorts of speculation of what sort of vessel it was part of, and what it held. And whether it was used by Jesus. And yet here these same pieces lay in my hand so many thousands of years later.

Broken pieces. Scattered shards.

They are broken now. But that does not mean they can not be repaired.

Each piece we dug up on that archaeology site was carefully numbered, drawn and eventually glued back into place, back together with other pieces until it formed the original vessel again. What was broken was made whole again.

Who am I? Broken pottery. Broken and waiting to be repaired again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Prayer For The Valley

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me ot face my perils alone.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lenten Journey

I'm preparing for Lent, which starts on Wednesday, and getting a little excited.

I'm not gonna lie. I haven't really been thinking about it or excited about it or even very interested in observing Lent this year. Things have just been so hard, so exhausting, so much, that the prospect of another trial, self-inflicted, was too much to ask it seemed. In previous years, I've fasted something that was important to me, or something that I felt helped me keep control instead of allowing God to have control. You know, those tiny little things like holding onto things that would help me get what I wanted or was called to do because God must not be able to handle it...

This year is different. This year requires a different set of priorities. A different set of lessons and a different focus.

This year, following a set of readings and word prompts, I am going on a photo journey. Every day has a different word to express through photography. A word pulled from a Scripture reading. My plan is to read the Scripture, journal about it, and take a photo to express what I'm thinking about it. The challenging part is that its hard to stay consistent with something like this every day.

I'm planning to share these photos over on my photo blog, A Thousand Hidden Gifts. I may share some of the journal as well here.

I'm getting excited about something new to focus on. And as always, I am going to enjoy worshiping through photography. I love to use the camera's focus to bring something into perspective, some beauty to the surface that otherwise might never be noticed.

Lent is not a time traditionally recognized for beauty. But there is beauty in pain, shadows, and darkness. And it is valuable to spend time there sometimes, to soak it in and let it change us, soften us, and rely on the Light of Christ in those shadows.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Wow. The last couple of evenings, I've spent re-reading much of my blog. I've read most of the published posts, and some unpublished ones as well. I've remembered thoughts and circumstances which lead to thoughts which led to the writings here. And I've been amazed.

What an ebenezer, this blog is.
And it is a good thing for me to see this ebenezer, this stone of remembrance.

An ebenezer is a stone raised in a certain place, so when others see it they can ask what it stands for, and can hear and remember the stories it represents. Ebenezers of God's grace and goodness and mercy.

In the path and rush of life, it is so incredibly easy to forget these mercies and graces and answered prayers. Its so easy to forget the thousands of blessings and gifts. It is necessary to remember these things. Its necessary to look back and see the beauty of God's presence.

I used to keep a prayer journal, and go back periodically to date when things happened or prayers were answered. It was amazing to see it in black and white. Now I am looking back at this story, and am amazed at the views I've seen and the miracles that have happened.

God is ever good.
God is ever present.
Here I raise my ebenezer. My stone of remembrance for all He has done.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Peace and Reflection

The following quotes are from two different devotionals given to me the last week. I've begun reading them daily, and found both meaningful and pertinent for today.

From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:
"My peace is the treasure of treasures: the pearl of great price. It is an exquisitely costly gift, both for the Giver and the receiver. I purchased this Peace for you with My blood. You receive this gift by trusting Me in the midst of life's storms. If you have the world's peace-everything going your way-you don't seek My unfathomable Peace. Thank Me when things do not go your way, because spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials. Adverse circumstances are normal in a fallen world. Expect them each day. Rejoice in the face of hardship, for I have overcome the world. Matthew 13:46, James 1:2, John 16:33"

And from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers:
Transformed By Insight
"2 Corinthians 3:18 We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.
The outstanding characteristic of a Christian is this unveiled frankness before God so that the life becomes a mirror for other lives. By being filled with the Spirit we are transformed, and by beholding we become mirrors. You always know when a man has been beholding the glory of the Lord; you feel in your inner spirit that he is the mirror of the Lord's own character. Beware of anything which would sully that mirror in you; it is nearly always a good thing, the good that is not the best.  The golden rule for your life and mine is this concentrated keeping of the life open towards God. Let everything else-work, clothes, food, everything on earth-go by the board, saving that one thing. The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God. We have to maintain ourselves in the place of beholding, keeping the life absolutely spiritual all through. Let other things come and go as they may, let other people criticize as they will, but never allow anything to obscure the life that is hid with Christ in God. Never be hurried out of the relationship of abiding in Him. It is the one thing that is apt to fluctuate but it ought not to. The severest discipline of a Christian's life is to learn how to keep "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord." "
The first one about peace is significant because I have been seeking peace in my heart and life. And I am discovering that perhaps peace is through trusting, and trusting is through faith, and faith is by living what you know to be true.
The second one is how that peace from God is shown to others. The light in us is a mirror of God in our heart. How we keep that mirror clear so God can be seen by others is by opening our heart toward God and not towards all the other things around us like the food, clothes or other things. The other things cause our mirror to be fogged up. I want others to look at me and behold in the glass the glory of the Lord, to see the peace and love in me.
Part of this journey.