Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ears to Hear

Little Aggie couldn't remember McDonald's. Grant it, we were rare patrons even when we lived in the States but I figured that we hadn't been away long enough for him to completely forget what it was.  He did.  His sisters and I tried to remind him of the food and the play place.  No luck. We decided that nothing outside an actual visit there would conjure up memories long buried.  So, a week into our return to the States we took him there. We had the full experience--happy meal, french fries and play place.  We walked to the play area where a boy held open the door for us to enter.  He was probably 8 years old.  "I got new shoes!" He offered in a thick East Texas accent as he held his foot up for a proper display.  That was it. I loved him.

Curly Girl and I oohed and ahhhhed over them.  I watched his family. I watched him play.  I knew he didn't get new shoes very often.  I listened to him tell me how he was good at cartwheels and head stands. Then he'd try to explain why he was having trouble doing really good ones for me. Before he left, he told me he was moving and he was afraid he would have no friends. Did I mention I loved him?

Last week we drove to what Southerners call an "old folks home" to visit an elderly relative.  I've known her a long time. I have heard many of her stories and nodded my head with a fake attentiveness. Not this time. I decided to really hear her. So I shut my mouth...a monumental task....and just listened to every word she offered me.  She talked. The more I listened, the more she shared...and the deeper she went.  She shared matters of her heart, regrets of her past, fears of her future.  I wanted to cry.  It felt like the pain of her past and the weight of her words transferred to me as she spoke them aloud.   
I saw her again today for a get together.  When it was time to go, she stopped me and said, "Thank you for listening to me the other day."

When I was still in Africa, my friend J and I were sitting on my roof porch. We planned to play a card game but were too busy talking to ever really get into the game.  We talked about serving the LORD and how simple it all really is.  You know, the whole "be not do" and all that.  I was suddenly very aware of the reality of how this isn't an Africa thing. It's an anywhere thing.  Listening to people and really hearing them.  White, Brown, whatever. It doesn't matter. People want to be heard and in the name of JESUS I can live my life...wherever I am...hearing them.    

I am only in America for a little while before we set out on another international adventure.  I wasn't very excited about coming back here...but every day I am here, the more I am seeing the people and the more I am hearing them.  I love it.  I love them.

Life with JESUS isn't complicated.  I think I have mentioned that one before haven't I? ;)  But it's true! You don't have to be with the "poor and needy" to do it.  We are all desperately poor and needy. You can see people, you can hear people wherever you are. So do it.  Let them matter to you. Hear them and do it in HIS NAME. If you do, I truly believe you will see, as I have, that a supernatural love and care...HIS love and HIS concern for them will flow through you.  

Now, that was worth the trip.   

Monday, March 4, 2013


So this is last post from Africa.  It isn't my last post on this blog...It isn't even my last post about Africa.
But it is my last one from Africa.

I am leaving in the midst of a week of riots and warfare, rock throwing, gun fights, and fires raging on the fuel of hatred.  Ironic then, that as I leave, I recognize that Guinea's greatest lesson to me has been love.
It's a strange thing, isn't it?  Love.
It shows up where it shouldn't. It flourishes when it should die. It holds on when it should give up.  It gives when the cost is great.  Love is extravagant.
I've seen it even more these past days.
A friend came by my home with his wife and baby tied on the back (my favorite thing) to bring us gifts.  Inside red paper were shoes...beautiful, African made slippers.  My friend works as a household cook. I couldn't imagine what it cost him to buy these for us.  But love is extravagant.

My neighbor invited me into her home yesterday. She presented a dress she had made for me.  She put earrings in my ears, a necklace on my neck and brought me to her mirror to show me how beautiful I was in them.  I looked around at all her children and they were beaming with excitement for my gifts.  They weren't wearing anything like what they had just given me.  What must it have cost them to do this?  They loved big and love is extravagant.

In this place where tempers are violent, I've seen patience and kindness.  In this place where death permeates everything, I've seen a remarkable amount of life.  In this place of desperate poverty I've seen extravagant giving.  In this place where injustice rules, I've seen freedom reign.

I am grateful. So so grateful. It overtakes every other emotion in me. It drowns out the sadness of leaving and subdues the excitement of our next adventure.  I am grateful that GOD gave me the thing I longed for. He gave me Africa and spent the year showing me the beauty of simplicity, engraving into the core of who I am that it all comes down to one thing: Love. Loving HIM, loving others and walking in that love.

That's not just a lesson for Africa. It's for all of us!  Don't get confused, or let anyone convince you that following JESUS is complicated or intellectual. It's not. It's simple...but it takes a lot of courage to let the simplicity of LOVE be your reality. But the GOD who is LOVE beckons us to it---"Be Strong and Courageous!!"

Who is up for it?